Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Memoranda


Memorandum submitted by Blackpool Coalition Against Gambling Expansion (BCAGE)

  We are from all political groups and non-political residents of Blackpool and the Fylde Coast.

  Our coalition contains shopkeepers, hoteliers, pub and club owners and managers. Also from various religious faiths and no particular faith. We have supporters in various trade unions, supporters of all age groups and from all social and economic backgrounds. We have in our few months of existence concentrated on lobbying movers and shakers rather than recruiting a mass membership, but over four hundred people have signed our charter.

  Our coalition was originally formed to campaign against the media hyped story that Blackpool was set to become the Las Vegas of the UK. We soon discovered that the hype about six, one thousand bed resort casinos was probably just that—hype. What we have in common is often personal or indirect experience of a problem gambler. This perhaps made us receptive to the critical information we obtained regarding the expansion of gambling proposed by the Government.

  That information contains a great deal of academic and economic evidence and research on the effects of higher levels of gambling activity in parts of the US, Australia, Canada and New Zealand. Our main recommendation to the Select Committee is to delay any expansion of gambling until there has been a great deal of analysis of the social costs that each aspect of gambling expansion will cause to each community and UK society in general.


  After careful analysis we hope the Committee will agree that UK research is required to either prove or disprove findings that casino developments make NO positive contribution to the economy. The research that best explains our case is by William N. Thompson, Professor of Public Administration at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

  In brief he is one of few experts that research where money comes from before it is spent in a casino. Also where it may have been spent had the casino not been so convenient. His analysis covers where the money goes afterwards in terms of profits, tax, expenses etc.

  We have focused on a particular report of his, as the size is similar to the first resort casino proposed for Blackpool.

  Total number of gambling visits 3 million

  Total annual revenue $226 million

  Expenses $147 million

  Profits $79 million

  In the US far more of the tax payable would be paid locally or regionally than in the UK. Even so in the US example $78 million would leave the region in tax, profits and expenses.

  There is considerable evidence that 50 per cent to 60 per cent of the income comes from problem gamblers. The social costs to society [of those problem gamblers] in the area served by the casino are estimated at $29 million a year.

  The cost of extra crime often caused to obtain money to feed a gambling problem is estimated at $2 million a year.

  Because of the multiplier effect [money passing through regional business twice] the loss of this money to the community can be doubled. Professor Thompson concludes that introducing a casino of this type and size will "result in a reduction of wealth to the local regional area exceeding $220 million a year".

  The only casino that could be said to contribute positively to the UK economy would be a London casino that mostly had foreign clients.


  We would ask you to check the validity of research undertaken in Florida which concluded that the social costs of allowing Vegas style casinos in Florida, would be four times as much as the potential tax revenue.

  We are aware of similar research in Australia, which concluded that for every $1 raised in tax from casinos and gambling expansion, the social costs were $3.

  We have not the resources or time to investigate this research, but would urge the Select Committee to instruct a detailed analysis of this and other research referred to on the websites listed below.

  Two pieces of research from the US, which gave strength to our stance against gambling expansion, were:

  Over 50 per cent of the revenue at one US casino came from four per cent of the casino clients [Grinols and Omorov,1995].

  Over 60 per cent of the casino revenue [Minnesota planning agency] came from two per cent of the casino clients. [Falk 1995]

  During a TV debate, which included supporters of BCAGE, an Australian TV reporter announced that there was research, indicating that up to 80 per cent of the revenue at some Australian gambling establishments, came from a very small percentage of clients, the problem gamblers.

  Unless this research can be proved to be inaccurate, we urge the Committee to recommend against any expansion of gambling in the UK. We find it impossible to understand why any civilised society would allow the advertising and promotion of a product that is so damaging to society.

  If it is true that half the revenue of an expanded gambling industry will come from gambling addicts, that expansion must not be encouraged. We have been unable to obtain any reliable information on the average costs to UK society now of a typical UK problem gambler. We urge the Committee to recommend the funding of UK research into those costs. Differing research from the US and Australia puts the cost of an average problem gambler from $5,000 to $50,000 per year. That is plus the cost of treating each problem gambler. There seems to be virtually no public or gambling industry money used to fund UK problem gamblers treatment at present.

  The £3 million a year suggested by Budd is a joke if you agree with G.A. that 1.5 million people in the UK have some kind of problem now. Again if it is true that half of expanded gambling revenue comes from problem gamblers the concept of taxing gambling profits to fund the treatment of problem gamblers is flawed. Virtually all of the tax revenue would have to be used on treatment and on publicity campaigns to encourage relatives to make problem gamblers seek treatment. There is a lot of evidence that they are in denial for years.

  If the treatment worked and all those affected ceased gambling, the revenue of the gambling industry would be halved. This would half the tax and put the industry back at the level it is now. We urge the Committee to investigate this in depth. There are strong indications that it will take ALL the potential tax revenue from a relaxed gambling industry to pay the true social costs that will result. There will be NO surplus tax to fund general government requirements. Unless that is the Government ignores the TRUE social costs of gambling as seems to be the case in the US, Canada and Australia.

  BCAGE do not want any existing gambling venue closed down, we understand that if it is restricted too much, it will go underground. We are a coalition of people with diverse views; we do agree that the expansion of gambling should not be encouraged. We oppose the gambling industry spin, which seeks the name change to "gaming" and to have it described in the media as "entertainment".

  The author and main spokesman for BCAGE [Steven Bate] would like to help the Committee in its detailed deliberations. He regrets missing the deadline to offer verbal evidence to the Committee and is shortly to establish the "International Gambling Analysis Centre". If funding can be obtained this will be able to assist the UK and possibly other European governments on research and analysis of various changes to gambling regulations.

  In case others do not suggest it, we would recommend that the Committee read most of the material on the following websites:-£Topic15 see gambling

  BCAGE could offer many more web pages of research and experiences from places that have had Vegas style gambling for some years. We will offer them on request, we note in the guide for written evidence that you do not reprint material published elsewhere. We hope you can publish the web address's above to enable all interested persons to study the material on which we make most of our case. We hope the committee agrees that what is required, is UK based research to indicate how similar gambling expansion will impact on various communities in the UK. We would welcome assisting the committee in any way deemed suitable.

  Here are the results of the recent local Gazette Survey on casino proposals. Please bear in mind the Gazette has run hundreds of features in favour of the casino proposals for the previous two years.

  1.   In Principle, do you favour resort casinos coming to Blackpool?
Yes 46.5 per centNo 45.9 per cent Not Sure 7.6 per cent

  2.   Would you be in favour of resort casinos coming to Blackpool if laws were changed to allow a gambling levy to be used for a regeneration fund for the benefit of the community?

Yes 59.1 per cent

No 40 per cent Not Sure 0.9 per cent

  3.   Would you be in favour of resort casinos coming to Blackpool without such a levy and without a regeneration fund?

Yes 18.2 per cent No 79.4 per cent Not Sure 2.4 per cent

  4.   Would you be in favour of resort casinos coming to Blackpool if the town was given exclusive resort casino status by the Government?

Yes 45.6 per cent

No 51.5 per cent Not Sure 2.9 per cent

  5.   Would you be in favour of resort casinos coming to Blackpool if the Government sticks to its decision not to give the town exclusive resort casino status?

Yes 42.1 per cent

No 53.9 per cent Not Sure 4 per cent

  6.   Do you think something must be done to regenerate Blackpool?
Yes 98.2 per centNo 1.8 per cent

  7.   Do you think resort casinos alone will regenerate Blackpool?
Yes 14.4 per centNo 84.1 per cent Not Sure 1.5 per cent

  8.   What other facilities do you want to see in Blackpool's masterplan for the future?
Conference Centre Yes 86.5 per cent
Extended shopping facilities Yes 90.3 per cent
Family Entertainment Centre Yes 92.1 per cent
Others in collective wish list no percentages offered
  Cleaner Streets
  Cleaner public toilets
  Fines for litter bugs
  Less alcohol culture
  More children's entertainment
  Build Snowdome [indoor ski centre]
  Build Storm City [covered theme park]
  Expand Pleasure Beach
  Build Disney style attractions
  More Police
  Better transport and links
  Better public areas
  Build Olympic size swimming pool
  Build bigger ice rink
  More and cheaper or free car parking
  Build concert venue
  Better value entertainment
  More modern, bigger, better value hotels
  Build Eden Centre style attraction
  Build large Department Store
  Marina for yachts
  Improve sea water quality
  Spa facilities
  Specialist Museums
  More coach excursions [to Lake district]
  Change of Council

  9.   What concerns if any, do you have about resort casinos coming to Blackpool?
  Crime 61.2 per cent
  Gambling Addiction 51.5 per cent
  Threat to Blackpool's family image 54.7 per cent
  Impact on small businesses 52.6 per cent
  Other concerns, no percentages offered
  Effect on local youth
  Would lose family image
  Impact on residents
  Profits would flow straight back out of town.
  Feeling even more unsafe walking streets than do now
  Higher council tax—because of more police needed.
  Drunkenness, beggars
  Public services stretched beyond limit—police, fire, ambulance would be unable to cope.
  Tacky image would be even worse
  Poor employment prospects—lowly paid, insecure jobs
  Hit small hotels—more would have to turn to stag and hen parties to compete.
  Monopoly of resort casino wouldn't be good for town
  Overloaded transport systems
  Degeneration of values—a community too focused on money.

  10.   Do you feel the Government report on gambling alleviates those concerns?
Yes 22.1 per centNo 65.6 per cent Not Sure 12.3 per cent

  11.   Would you gamble in a resort casino in Blackpool?

Yes 26.8 per cent

No 64.7 per cent Not Sure 8.5 per cent

  12.   Which of these do you want Blackpool to cater for [some ignored the tick one category instructions]?
  Family Visitors 70.3 per cent
  Conference Delegates 21.3 per cent
  Stag and Hen Parties 20.9 per cent
  Day Trippers 12.1 per cent

  Finally can we pass on news confirmed only this week that one of our supporters has assisted the national conference of the USDAW trade union to vote against the proposals for gambling expansion and the concept of resort casinos. Also the Blackpool and Fylde Coast branch of the Federation of Small Business has voted against resort casinos and gambling expansion. The FSB will discuss this in the region and then nationally. Our chairman Rev Tim Widdess has also this week been informed that his proposal to have the issue discussed at the national Methodist Church conference has been accepted.

  BCAGE has also received the support of 300 members of the Blackpool Seasonal Traders Association and the 50 strong group, representing pubs and nightclubs in Blackpool town centre.

  Thank you for considering the evidence on the web pages above, if you did.

2 May 2002

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2002
Prepared 11 June 2002