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Bob Russell: Will my hon. Friend ask the House to reflect on the fact that 300,000, which is the number of problem gamblers already known about, is three times
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the number of soldiers in Her Majesty's armed forces? That puts in context the sheer volume of problem gamblers already out there.

Mr. Foster: My hon. Friend is right to draw attention to one way of showing just how large a number a third of a million people is. He will be well aware that the clear evidence is that with the introduction of what could be 5,000 highly addictive category A machines the number is likely to increase significantly. It is not only the public and politicians of all parties who are concerned about this but the British businesses that will be affected. The Government said in the White Paper that

It is strange, then—perhaps the Minister can explain it to the House—that the Government plan to remove category D machines from fish and chip shops and taxi offices but there has been no consultation whatever with representatives of those businesses, although estimates show that up to 600 of them are likely to close as a result. In passing, he might explain what the difference is between ambient gambling in a fish and chip shop or taxi office and in a motorway service station. Many people are confused about that aspect of the legislation.

Businesses are also concerned about what appears to be preferential treatment for American casino operators. The British casino industry is understandably worried that the odds are being significantly stacked in favour of the Americans. It is the British businesses, not the American ones, who have, over 40 years, built an enviable record of integrity, fairness and social responsibility. They have raised issues of integrity about membership. We are not talking about a return to the 24-hour rule, but about having at least a membership requirement so that a record is kept of all those who enter premises. Surely the Minister and the Secretary of State have been consulting the police, and I would be amazed if the Minister tells us that the police and others have all said a membership registration scheme would not assist on money laundering or on the issues of problem gambling.

The final version of the Bill came as a huge shock to many people, including the casino industry, and there are more shocks still to come. The Bill contains many references to numerous, as yet unavailable, codes and regulations and to 32 additional powers for the Secretary of State. Many people have real concerns, some of them very basic.

The Government's arguments for more casinos do not seem to add up. They cannot even tell us how many casinos there are. Last week, on the Floor of the House, the Prime Minister told us there are 120. The DCMS website says there are 122. In response to the Joint Committee, Lord McIntosh said there were 126. More recently, in a press release, he said there were 130. The House of Commons Library, whose figures I prefer to believe, says that the figure is none of those, but is 131. If the Government cannot even get the basic facts right, how can we have confidence in other things they say?

We have been told that the Bill would be revenue-neutral, but that statement has been withdrawn, which is not surprising because the regulatory impact assessment says that the Bill should

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There is confusion, too, about the number of jobs that will be created. The Prime Minister, again on the Floor of the House last week, and in a press briefing, said there would be 80,000. The Secretary of State says in articles in today's papers that there will be 85,000. Leaving that aside, in the run-up to the Bill jobs have actually been lost. British gaming machine manufacturing jobs have been lost to America, and further job losses are predicted. The Henley Centre claims that there will be "no significant employment gains" as a result of the Bill. It argues that

In other words, it is likely that super-casinos will merely displace jobs, not create new ones.

If the super-casinos are going to take away some existing gambling business, a threat is also posed to such things as the national lottery. What will be the impact on good causes? As I said at Question Time, what will be the impact on our Olympic funding package? The regulatory impact assessment is quite clear that there will be implications. Even if national lottery sales decline by just 2.5 per cent., that would lead to a loss of almost £50 million a year for the good causes, of which £27 million would be from the Olympic lottery fund. Over five years, that figure would be more than £100 million. The Minister must explain how the funding gap will be closed in our plans for the Olympic bid.

The case for regeneration, however seductive it may be, frankly has not been made.

Mrs. Humble: Is the hon. Gentleman aware of a report commissioned by the Northwest Development Agency and the Lancashire West partnership for the eight councils in west Lancashire on the regeneration potential of regional casinos? It has identified a substantial increase in net jobs and investment into the local area, and I recommend that the hon. Gentleman reads it before he makes further comments about regeneration.

Mr. Foster: I am grateful. The honest and truthful answer is that I was not aware of the report, but if the hon. Lady will make it available, I shall be delighted to read it. My point, though, is a simple one: there are conflicting bits of evidence about the issue, and it is wrong of the Government to claim categorically that all the additional jobs will be created when there is conflicting evidence about that. Surely, as many hon. Members have suggested, a far better way forward, adopting the precautionary principle, would be to move slowly, possibly by having just one new super-casino in each region. Then, we will have an opportunity to judge whether the hon. Lady's evidence or the Henley Centre's evidence or the Prime Minister's evidence is correct.

The other worry that the House should have about the Bill relates to the opinions of Lord McIntosh, who for a while has fronted up the Government's views on
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the Bill. He told the Joint Committee:

I am sure that he is absolutely right, but there is nothing in the Bill about the tax regime, which Lord McIntosh said was crucial if we were to understand the reform. The Secretary of State told us from the Dispatch Box only an hour ago that the tax regime for gambling was nothing to do with her and that it was all to do with the Treasury. However, if we do not have a clear understanding of the tax regime, how can we know how many new super-casinos there will be? Lord McIntosh agrees with me, but there is nothing in the Bill.

Lord McIntosh said that the location regime was the second of the three legs, but what there is on that is wholly inadequate, confusing and flawed. So basically, we have a Bill that is two legs short of a stool. We simply cannot understand the reform, as Lord McIntosh said, unless we have the other details.

We are also expected to be confident that the industry will ensure that there will be only between 20 and 40 of the new casinos. That is what the Prime Minister and the Government have claimed. The Government say that that range is an industry prediction, but I would be interested to know which part of the industry made that prediction. When I ask people in the industry whether they made it they say, "No, it's what the Government have told us, and because we find it so difficult to decide how many it should be, we haven't disagreed with them." I hope that the Minister can say which parts of the industry have told the Government that the range will be between 20 and 40. If he cannot say now, perhaps he will put the answer in the Library, because people in the industry are not capable of making such a prediction.

When people in the industry try to work out the figure and find how difficult it is they take into account the fact that there have been about 100 planning applications already, and the fact that it is reported that MGM has recently said that 10 per cent. of its global profits would come from the UK alone. Will the figure be only between 20 and 40? Who knows? But let us not be so complacent as to believe that it will be.

That is why it was so bizarre when the Secretary of State said only a few days ago in her press notice introducing the legislation:

What nonsense. This is a Bill about new casinos—that is the bit of the Bill that everyone is so concerned about. The Secretary of State is deeply wrong. We are concerned about the new casinos, how many there will be, where they will be and whether the profits from them will disappear from this country and end up in America. The Bill fails in the location regime in so many ways.

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