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We need a trial in seaside resorts, in urban areas and in city centres. Scotland and Wales will want to be part of the programme. However, we also need to ensure flexibility over time. Hon. Members must realise that we have the opportunity to make primary legislation only every 40 years or so, and the Bill must therefore create the blueprint for the gambling industry for the next 20 to 30 years, or longer. We must also trust the new gambling commission to do its job, and we need fairness for the existing industry. The Minister can use statutory instrument powers under the Gaming Act 1968 to increase the number of category B machines allowed in the existing estate. I know that he is considering that, and I urge him to do it.
My hon. Friend the Member for North-East Cambridgeshire (Mr. Moss) spoke about amendment No. 116. It does not constitute a membership requirement, but supports the principle that the casinos should know their customers. I should have thought that gambling commission codes of practice were likely to incorporate similar provisions on age, money laundering and the supervision of areas where category A and category B machines are to be located. That principle applies now to arcades, to limit access to category C machines by children.
The Government now have difficulty with these provisions in only one respect: fairness to the existing industry. I hope that the Minister will give that question further consideration, and that even in the other place, there will be an opportunity to do more about it. The industry has a world-wide reputation for probity, and is
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respected across the entire casino world. We should therefore trust it to do a little more than the Government are currently allowing it to do.
Dr. John Pugh (Southport) (LD): I was on the Joint Committee and the reconvened Joint Committee, and I enjoyed a brief half-life on the Standing Committee until the Railways Bill was introduced. I know more about gambling now than I have ever done. The conclusion that the Joint Committee reached was that there should have been two Bills: a gambling Bill and a casino Bill. On the issue of a casino Bill, the Government disagreed with the Joint Committee, specifically in regard to the size, number and categories of machines. "Casino" was perhaps a misnomer all along; what we are talking about are sheds full of machines.
The Government took our advice and then kept changing that advice. It is really difficult to understand the twists and turns that they have made. Those moves are profoundly puzzling unless we decide that the script has been written around a particular outcome, and that the bottom line is that certain key playersAmericans or whoevermust have their way. If we assume that to be the case, all else falls into place and things start to make sense.
My objection to the proposal for super-casinos is that there is simply no demand for them. That is an industry-led proposal. There is no necessity to use them as a regeneration tool. My constituency is regenerating itself without any proposal for a casino. The requirement in the Bill for regeneration is more notional than real. It is dependent on very weak planning controls and falls far short of what happens on the continent, where major revenue benefits are secured as part of the package. The assessment of the benefits has been extraordinarily partial. Neither the losses to small businesses nor the threat of ambient gambling to resort communities has been fairly considered.
I have concluded that casino developments are a licence to print money, a cash cow for the Chancellor. They represent a doubtful prospect for any community, and will aggravate problem gambling and lead to a further redistribution of wealth from the poor to the rich. Blue-collar workers from all over Lancashire are going to find recreation a lot more expensive. Despite such a dim prospect, I am fairly confident that there will be some tiny victories tonight. However, the thread running through the legislation tells me that the greatest satisfaction will be experienced by those in the corporate headquarters for whom the Bill seems to have been written. No amendment before us will change that.
Mr. Caborn: I would like to say to the hon. Member for Ryedale (Mr. Greenway) that, if one could respond in a fair way to the existing industry, one would do so. The last thing that we want to do is to put our own industry at a disadvantage. Equally, however, we must assure the House that what we are doing reflects what hon. Members want, not just in relation to certain proposals but the entire Bill.
The Government have tried to set out a cautious course of reform. When we debated the Bill on Second Reading, hon. Members gave us the clear message that
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they wanted us to be more cautious and to put in place a structure that would give people more certainty about the shape and size of the new industry. We listened to the House. It is patently obvious that we all agree with 90 per cent. of the Bill's provisions. The part that is under debate this evening relates to casinos and associated matters.
Our new proposals gave hon. Members what they asked for: controls on the number of new casinos and on the number of new gaming machines. Perhaps it would help if I started by giving the House a very brief explanation of the Government amendments in this group. Government amendment No. 2 is purely a drafting amendment. Government amendment No. 8 ensures that the gambling commission will focus on an applicant's commitment to social responsibility when considering applications for casino operating licences.
Government amendment No. 13 answers one point that worried the Standing Committee: what would happen to regeneration benefits if the casino owner were to sell on the casino and the premises' licence? Where the previous licence holder has entered into an agreement about local benefits, the substance of that agreement will continue to be a condition of the new licence. This means that any commitments will have to be fulfilled by the new operator. Government amendment No. 29 requires licensing authorities that are permitted to issue casino premises licences to publish a statement setting out the principles that they intend to apply when judging the licensing competition under schedule 9.
Amendment No. 96 is tabled in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Bridgend (Mr. Griffiths) and my right hon. Friend the Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Field). I understand that they have a great problem with the whole notion of unlimited prize gaming machines in new-style regional casinos. They have explained that clearly, and they have every right to do so. However, unlimited stakes and prizes are by no means new to Britain. They are available every day in betting offices, at roulette tables and online. Gambling for unlimited prizes is open to the British public now.
I acknowledge, however, that new casinos will bring risks that are untested in Great Britain. That is why we took the decision to limit the numbers of these casinos to eight. It does need to be restated that these casinos will be subject to the most intense regulation. Every aspect of their conduct will be carefully controlled. Casino gaming in regional casinos is a legitimate leisure activity for adults, and at the end of the day, I believe that adults need to be treated like adults.
Amendment No. 119, tabled in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Selby (Mr. Grogan), goes a little too far. I made it clear in Standing Committee that the Government would take a commonsense approach to reviewing the impact of the regional casinos. We have also said that the review will take place no less than three years after the beginning of the new regime. However, we will not begin the review until we are confident that a good number of casinos are established and operating in a reasonable spread of locations. It would be foolish
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to speculate now on what the right number or spread would be, when we do not know where the casinos will be. But the Government will not rush into the review if we cannot be confident about the quality of data that we might get out of it. My hon. Friend's amendment is therefore over-restrictive. It might be possible to draw reasonable conclusions about the impact of regional casinos when, say, five or six are established and in operation.
Amendment No. 143 was tabled by members of the official Opposition, and returns us to a subject that we debated at length in Committee. The official Opposition want four regional casinos; we recommend eight. At the end of the day, this is a judgment call. It is not an exact science; far from it. What is importantand, indeed, what lies behind our decisionis the need to strike the appropriate balance between providing for a number that will enable a proper assessment of social impact to be made, while minimising the risk of social harm. We think that eight casinos will give a sound basis for a reasonable test. Four would be too few.
Amendments Nos. 103, 104 and 105, tabled in the name of the hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Foster), would give local authorities a power to determine in advance the exact number of casinos in their area. We think that that goes too far. We acceptindeed, it was we who proposed itthat some authorities should have the power to reflect strong local opinion and not allow any new casinos in their area if they are not wanted. The decision of local authorities can also reflect the view that there is a sufficient number in their area. We do not accept, however, that local authorities should be able to specify a number in advance. Amendment No. 104 would give licensing authorities a power that they already have, because clause 161 already gives them the power to have regard to "any principle or matter". That is intentionally very broad, and would clearly allow an authority to take account of the likely social impact of new casinos.
Amendment No. 100 was also tabled by the hon. Member for Bath, and I do not think that it is needed. Casinos that are licensed now under the Gaming Act 1968 will continue to be licensed after that Act is repealed through transitional provisions in an order made under schedule 18 to the Bill. The order will deem those casinos, under powers in paragraph 9 of schedule 18, to have premises licences under the Bill, but they will be limited to 10 gaming machines of up to category B1. Under the powers in paragraph 10 of the same schedule they will not be allowed to provide betting or bingo. Those provisions will provide a mix of casinos, on the basis of which the House, in future years, can make a sound decision on how it wants to move forward.
Clause 7(5)(d) makes it clear that a separate category of casinos, which are below the minimum size for a small casino, will exist under the Bill. Paragraph 3(a) of schedule 18 makes it clear that a casino premises licence may be issued for such a casino, despite the fact that it does not meet the size requirement. Clause 7(5)(d) is needed purely to exempt the casinos from the minimum size requirement that applies to new casinos. Nor does
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amendment No. 101 have any effect on the meaning of clause 7, as casino games provided on premises can only be provided on casino premises. Therefore, no harm arises from the single reference to "premises" in clause 7(4).
Amendment No. 102 is also unnecessary. The Standing Committee had concerns about multiple licences on a single premises, but as I have stated previously, such an arrangement is not possible under the Bill.
Amendments Nos. 116 and 117 lead us on to the linked topics of identity and membership. The amendments in the name of the hon. Member for Bath make two new proposals: first, that everyone entering the gaming area of casinos should show photographic ID to door supervisors; and secondly, that gaming machines should be allowed in what we have called the non-gambling area. The Government agree entirely with him that casinos have a responsibility to confirm the age of customers. That is why a person who fails to do that is guilty of a criminal offence under clause 46. I do not agree, however, that we must impose the requirement that he seeks.
The hon. Member for Bath is also concerned about money laundering and I agree that strong controls are necessary. I do not agree, however, that those controls should take the form of identification on entry. He misled the House, probably unwittingly, when he misquoted the second money laundering directive, which does not require ID on entry. Instead, it requires that ID must be given when buying and selling more than €1,000 of chips. As we discussed in Standing Committee, that is how money laundering controls are enforced now, but it is possible to maintain the same level of vigilance without checks on entry, and we should not impose excessive burdens on the industry without good reason.
On the other aspects of the amendment, I must disagree with the hon. Member for Bath. The non-gambling area of a casino should be exactly thatfree from gambling of any type. The purpose of such an area is to give gamblers a readily available break from gambling, which is hardly possible if it is full of pub-style gaming machines.
I recognise that my hon. Friends have the best intentions in proposing new clause 7 and amendment No. 93, but I cannot agree with them. The current membership rule and 24-hour delay before play provide no significant protection to consumers, and nor are they practical to operate for any large casino when large numbers of people are likely to arrive at peak periods. I remind my hon. Friends that casinos provide adult entertainment, and if an adult wishes to enter a casino, it is not reasonable to ask that person to become a member, any more than it would be reasonable to ask someone to be a member of their local pub or betting office.
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