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Mr. Banks: Sit down then.

Mr. Thomas: No doubt personal debt will increase even more if the hon. Gentleman gets his way and makes a speech, as people are driven out to gamble.

Gambling is founded on misery and on broken dreams for many, and it is a broken dream for a Government to promote it. Let us look at some of the parts of the Bill. We are told that we will see only 20 to 40 super-casinos, but that is a margin of error of 100 per cent. I cannot trust such figures. We are talking about a 1 or 2 per cent. margin in the US presidential election, so why should we trust a margin of 100 per cent.? If the gates have opened, I have no doubt that lobbyists will force the legislation through. Super-casinos will do for gambling what super-pubs have done for binge drinking. They will increase gambling rates and the amount of problem gambling. Allowing super-casinos
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to provide some form of regeneration is like expecting supermarkets to regenerate our town centres—it ain't going to happen.

The Government talk about a triple lock on the development of super-casinos. From what I see in the Bill, that lock will be about as effective as a Krooklok on a dodgy Ford Escort in an unlit car park. There needs to be considerable strengthening of regulation of super-casinos. In particular I want local authorities to be able to say no, not for three years before facing court cases, pressure and lobbying, but on behalf of their populations and for it to mean no. I want membership of casinos to remain a requirement, although perhaps not 24-hour membership. I do not want alcohol to be served at gaming tables, because that befuddles people's minds and leads to more betting. Lines of credit should not be offered in super-casinos either. That would merely facilitate people's reliance on gambling. We should look again at grandfather rights, too. Perhaps we shall have an indication of that happening.

Online betting is growing. I know that because I received some spam e-mail from The Daily Telegraph on Friday, which said:

I do not know why the e-mail was sent to me—

There is no way that The Daily Telegraph could have known in sending me that e-mail, encouraging me to link to an online gambling site, that I was over 18 years old. Instead of asking whether we should regulate such betting, we should be asking ourselves whether it should be possible at all. At the moment, online gambling based on a UK website is illegal. Perhaps we should keep it that way. People would not lose their money online—fine. We should not be making it easier for people to gamble in that way.

I want also to address the problem of lotteries, because the Bill could have an effect on good-cause lotteries. I have been contacted by Ty Hafan children's hospice in Wales, which is concerned about pseudo-lotteries—the sort of thing on television that plays a video of Robbie Williams singing "Radio" and invites people to phone in at £1.50 a minute to name his latest single. That is supposed to be a competition; that is a lottery.

Chris Ruane (Vale of Clwyd) (Lab): What is it?

Mr. Thomas: "Radio". I have just mentioned it; the hon. Gentleman was not listening. Such prize-based competitions that are heavily promoted on television are a form of gambling. The Bill addresses that, but I want to ensure that it makes such gambling much more difficult to engage in.

We heard from the hon. Member for Great Yarmouth (Mr. Wright) about family and holiday centres. I share some of his concerns about places such as Quay West in my constituency where gaming is not the primary purpose. We need to see what happens. The Joint
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Committee suggested that an evidence-based report be commissioned on what happens when children enter such places. I agree with that suggestion.

The Bill represents a return to Victorian values—that is the pattern that is emerging. The Licensing Act 2003 promoted binge drinking, and this Bill promotes easy gambling. We will see what happens about smoking. It is curious that the Government are thinking of banning smoking around gaming tables while making it easier to gamble. That shows that the nanny state has got its knickers in a twist.

The Secretary of State is dealing the cards of regulation and asking us to look at what is being done to protect children under the Bill—her card trick—but we should be looking at the magicians' cabinet behind her. In there lies the spectre of more gambling, more problems and more harm to society. I very much hope that a true socialist, a true Labour person and anyone who believes in a better society will reject the Bill tonight.

Several hon. Members rose—

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. May I say to hon. Members who are desirous of catching my eye that it would be useful if they stood to speak in their usual places?

7.19 pm

Mr. Win Griffiths (Bridgend) (Lab): I approach the debate in something of a dilemma. I am sorry that I did not pay more attention to what was happening during pre-legislative scrutiny. I have a seaside resort in my constituency and, when Mr. Budd's report was first published, I wrote a piece for one of my local papers in which I stated that I did not believe that the Budd concept of mega-casinos would help in the regeneration of a seaside town in south Wales. After examining the Bill last week I wrote another article, which was for Labour party members. It stated that I did not believe that the proposals for super-casinos in the Bill would help to regenerate Porthcawl or any other town in my constituency.

Mr. Lindsay Hoyle (Chorley) (Lab): Does my hon. Friend believe that we would benefit from trials of perhaps four super-casinos, in, for example, Blackpool, which has an airport, and that they should constitute the only trials in the country?

Mr. Griffiths: I have signed the early-day motion that proposed a trial, which my right hon. Friend the Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Field) tabled. Four is excessive. Ideally, we should not have super-casinos at all, but if the Government genuinely want to test the concept let us go for it in one resort, perhaps two in extremis. I am a Methodist and my Church suggested to me that there are many good things in the Bill, for example, regulating new forms of betting and strengthening some of the regulation on existing forms. However, when I listened to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, I had the feeling that the Government would not change their minds about some of the provisions to which I would support significant change. For example, although it is not acceptable to me, some
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hon. Members would accept a cap of 20 to 40 mega-casinos. I would not accept that, but the Government were not even prepared to accept the need for a cap.

I find myself in the position of supporting the better regulation of new and existing forms of gambling but totally opposing anything that would allow mega-casinos to get a toe hold in the United Kingdom. It is as though a farmer had decided to repair all the fences in his field to protect his animals, but simultaneously decided to make a huge gap in all the better hedges to allow the animals to roam wherever they please.

I am moving towards voting against Second Reading. My original idea was to make a speech and say that the Bill contained good provisions that must be supported, others that were terrible and that I could not support, but that it should be allowed to proceed to Committee and, if the changes that I supported were not accepted, I would vote against Third Reading. However, from what I have heard this evening the prospect of significant change in Committee is diminishing.

I have been a Member of Parliament for some years and I know how Committees are composed. The idea of the Government appointing a majority of Members who want the changes that I support will not be realised. While I remain on the horns of a dilemma, I must tell my right hon. Friend the Minister for Sport and Tourism that I am inclining towards voting against Second Reading.

The polls on whether sufficient gambling opportunities exist show that most people believe that they do. Most people also believe that if we provide further gambling opportunities, we will create further gambling problems. When we consider the aid that is available through voluntary effort—organisations such as Gamblers Anonymous and GamCare do fantastic work—and the pitiful contribution of Governments to that since we have had casino gambling, I have to take with a pinch of salt the letters that I have read about how the industry will put money into trying to counsel people who experience problems to ensure that they do not become problem gamblers. The efforts that are made to tackle problem drinking are inadequate and getting worse rather than better. Even if the proposals are tweaked here and there, they will result in gambling problems for more people.

The fixed-odds betting terminals are a disaster in that they encourage people to bet. We will allow them, if not to proliferate, to be available in plenty of places with a modicum of regulation.

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