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Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, this is a difficult debate to sum up because there has not been a consistent thread throughout it. There have been, of course, those whose views I strongly respect who are against gambling altogether and wish we were not doing any of this. I have to address those noble Lords but I do not have any significant hope of converting them from a lifetime's convictions.
I take heart from the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, who like me was, at a very young age, started off on the wrong path. In 1949, I think, my parents took me to the Derby where I bet on a horse called Galcador to win and it won seven to one, yielding me 35 shillings. I should therefore have been doomed to a life of addiction to gambling thereafter. I take heart from the experience of the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, and from my own experience. Not all of us get caught in that way. I take heart as well from the motto of the South African Responsible Gambling Trust, "Winners know when to stop". I think that that is the lesson that we should all take. So, I declare an interest, I suppose, as one who is really rather frightened of gambling.
I am not just a non-gambler but would be nervous about being involved in gambling in any other way. I knew nothing about it until I took on these responsibilities in the summer of 2003. It has been an eye-opener for me. I have met some very nice people and have enjoyed the time that I have been engaged in the matter, but it is not something that I will continue with when my responsibilities in the area come to an end.
I take the view that the debate has identified four major issues that the House will want me to deal with more thoroughly. First, there is problem gambling; secondly, there is gambling and children; thirdly, there is what is called the level playing field for British casino operators and those from abroad; and, fourthly, there is the more general issue of why we have casinos in the Bill. I will, if I may, race through the other issues before coming back to those important points. At the end, I shall sum up by saying what I feel to be the balance of advantage in the Bill and why we believe that the Bill should go through much as proposed. Then, I shall talk about the way forward and how we can resolve any outstanding issues that may arise.
I shall deal with the other issues first. The first is relatively simple: Internet and remote gambling. All of us agree that Internet and remote gambling is capable
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of being the most dangerous of all. As my noble friend Lady Golding said, it takes place behind closed doors and in front of computer screens. Worse than that, it can take place on your mobile phone. The issue is not whether we approve of itit is happeningbut whether there is any chance of it being controlled or any chance of bringing such activities onshore, so that they can be regulated by the Gambling Commission.
I heard what the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, said about having "all in or all out". It is a serious issue, and the noble Lord, Lord St John of Bletso, made the same point. I doubt whether we could have what he asks for by way of worldwide rights for the Gambling Commission, but there are things that we can do. We could, in some ways, control advertising from outside the European economic area. We will work on the question of having all in or all out, and we will discuss that with noble Lords who are interested between now and Committee stage.
I do not think that there is a great deal of disagreement about regulation and the Gambling Commission. I was grateful for the tributes to the Gaming Board from the noble Lords, Lord Mancroft and Lord Steinberg, among others. My noble friend Lady Golding asked how long it would be before the Gambling Commission was in operation. My answer is that it will be in operation in good time. The noble Viscount, Lord Falkland, asked how much money it would need. We have set aside money for the early stages. After that, the Gambling Commission will be funded by the industry and will be covered by licence fees. We have no fears on that score.
There were several questions about premises licensing and the burden on local authorities. I think that the noble Lord, Lord Phillips of Sudbury, referred to it. The number of licences that are new, other than the renewal of bookmakers' premises licences, for example, will be much smaller than the number of alcohol and entertainment licences under the Licensing Act 2003. I do not foresee particular difficulties with that. We are working closely with the Local Government Association to ensure that local authorities are ready for their new responsibilities. I categorically confirm to the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, that there will be a separate use class for casinos and that planning permission will be required for other premises to become casinos.
All I would say about the transition to the new system is that I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Phillips, that on such issues we have to take changes extremely gingerly. That is the thrust behind what we are doing and the thrust behind our decision to limit the number of what we call regional casinos and what one could call destination casinos or resort casinos. There is no difference in the names; what matters is how they are defined. I believe it is recognised that we are taking that extremely gingerly.
I say to the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, that of course in the end the decision on location has to be taken by the Secretary of State. But she made a good point about the composition of the panel, that it should contain people with experience of social
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conditions and planning matters and not simply be a recycling of quango queens or kingsalthough she did not say that.
The fundamental point is that when the process has been completed and a decision has been made on up to 24 locations, local authorities will have all the powers that they need to take into consideration the benefits that they are offered in terms of the facilities in and around casinos. That was the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, about encouraging the arts and music. If that is what local authorities want, they must bargain for it and it is good that they should do that. It is not just that there should be sports halls and hotels, but they must decide what they want. They can take into account the regeneration effects and the benefit or otherwise of what is being offered in addition to the casino premises. They have all the powers that they need to run a competition to their best advantage. I agree with the noble Viscount, Lord Falkland, that the benefits that will come from that are not in gambling alone, but in the associated benefits for local authorities.
On money laundering, I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, that the issue of identification is wider than the European directive. I believe there is some confusion about the European directive. The default position is that identification should take place when money is taken in or out. The Commission says that identification on entry is an acceptable alternative. We are still negotiating about that. I believe that the description of the noble Lord, Lord Steinberg, of the money laundering situation as it is at the moment was entirely accurate. The noble Lord, Lord St John, is right that identification of customers, record keeping and the reporting of suspicious transactions is a matter on which we have to continue to negotiate within the context of the money laundering directive, but also in the context of the way in which casinos are run.
I have no fears that casinos of the kind that we are describing will allow children in to gamble. Under the Bill it would be specifically illegal to do so. My experience, such as it is, is that operators will be desperately keen to keep children out and to avoid that kind of distortion.
Very little was said on betting exchanges. I believe that there is general agreement that registration of all users of exchanges is the right thing. If there is to be an issue, as raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Golding, in relation to users of exchanges in the course of business, as in all mattersthis is a tax issuethe courts will decide and of course we are in consultation with the Treasury on that. I fear that any attempt to define a threshold for non-recreational users, which some have urged us to do, would prove arbitrary and would fail. No one has found a wording.
Some interesting points were raised about lotteries and prize competitions. There have certainly been criticisms of the problem of the skill test in the Bill. The noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, and the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, both referred to this matter. I promise that we have been listening to everybody who
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has raised these issues. Our starting point is that the level of skill should not be derisory but I appreciate that it is different for different audiences. Our discussions are continuing and I sincerely hope that we will be able to bring forward amendments to those clauses in Committee.
I should tell the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, that we have already doubled the prize limit to £200,000. We cannot scrap the prize limit because that would risk affecting the National Lottery. I can reassure the noble Lord, Lord Roberts, that the changes we made at a late stage in the Commons affecting ticketless lotteries and hospices have been generally welcomed. Those fears have now been put to rest.
I have taken 12 minutes to get to the major issues. It is generally recognised that we have a low level of problem gambling. Levels of gambling are undoubtedly rising and there is therefore an increase in the risk of problem gambling. In looking at the outcome of this legislation, we have to balance two elements: the effect that the Bill might have in increasing the total amount of gamblingand I suspect that any increase in casino gambling will be much less than the continuing increase in on-line gambling; and the protection that the Bill provides through the greater powers of the Gambling Commission and the industry's voluntary undertaking to encourage research, treatment and publicity against problem gambling.
How can this be measured? I am convinced that if we abandon the Bill now, problem gambling will increase faster than if we enact it as it is now envisaged. I cannot prove that but, having evaluated the different elements of the Bill, that is my conviction. We do not know everything we should about problem gambling, but we do know that accessibility of gambling is an important consideration, as is repeatability. The Billand the way in which the Gambling Commission will approach itshows that this has been at the forefront of our thinking.
The views expressed on children and gambling have been so contradictory that it would be impossible to reconcile them. I respect the views of those who say that children and gambling should not mix at any level. But the experience of children engaging in commercial gamblingthat is gambling in seaside arcades and family entertainment centresdoes not indicate any significant risk of increased addiction either in children or adults. If there is any subsequent evidence for that, I say to the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, that we must keep the reserve power. I profoundly disagree with her on that matter. It would give the wrong message to say that there was no reserve power to stop children from commercial gambling. The people of this country would not thank us if we did that.
The noble Baroness, Lady Golding, said that we have children gambling in this country. That is unusual. We also have a low adult gambling problem. Those facts have to be taken into account and reconciled. We will think about those matters when we make these judgements which, I accept, are very difficult. My instinct
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is that non-commercial gamblingsuch as the sixth-form room brag and poker games described by the noble Lord, Lord Greavesis a good deal more prevalent among children than limited commercial gambling in seaside arcades.
I had hoped that I was explicit in my opening speech about British casinos and the level playing field. I rewrote it a number of times to ensure that I would be explicit. The noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, recognised that we cannot allow the 137or however many there are todayexisting casinos to have unlimited or even a significantly large additional number of machines. That would completely disrupt the pilot number, which she emphasised, of the "8, 8 and 8" regional, large and small casinos.
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