Select Committee on Merits of Statutory Instruments Nineteenth Report


Letter from Great Yarmouth Borough Council

1.  I understand that the Merits of Statutory Instruments Committee has recently examined the Draft Gambling (Geographical Distribution of Large and Small Casino Premises Licences) Order.

2.  I wanted the opportunity to provide you with some comments from Great Yarmouth Borough Council, as we are one of the 16 local authorities proposed by the Order to award a large casino licence.

3.  We are hopeful that the removal of the regional casino from the Order will allow the sixteen large and small casinos to go ahead. We had been reassured by the apparent cross-party support for the sixteen casino areas in last year's debates and very little has changed in that time.

4.  We have invested a great deal of time and resource in the process over a long period. Our concern in Great Yarmouth is that a rejection of the Order will severely hamper our regeneration plans. The proposed large casino for Great Yarmouth has very strong cross-party support at Great Yarmouth Borough Council and is a major part of our regeneration strategy. In particular, it will provide employment opportunities for local people and help establish Great Yarmouth as a year round tourism destination.

5.  We have had considerable interest from potential developers wishing to provide a casino development but can assure the Committee that no decisions have been made regarding sites. We recognise the need for fairness in selecting a casino site and support a competition process as the means of ensuring the best development for local people.

6.  We note the Committee's concerns regarding traceability of impacts but the provision of other gambling facilities (including on-line gambling) is common to every authority in England, Wales and Scotland. However, the Committee raises an important point regarding the need to test the social impact of the casino and the Licensing Authority will establish studies to monitor such impact.

7.  Finally, the Licensing Authority takes its responsibilities under the Gambling Act 2005 very seriously. We attach great importance to the minimisation of harm and will ensure that the licensing objectives of preventing crime and protecting the vulnerable from harm are suitably reflected in the criteria for the competition process.

Barry Coleman

Leader of the Council

8 May 2008

Letter from London Borough of Newham Council

1.  I understand that the Merits of Statutory Instruments Committee has recently examined the Draft Gambling Order 2008.

2.  I wanted the opportunity to provide you with some information on Newham's position as one of the 16 local authorities proposed by the Order to award a casino licence - in Newham's case a large licence.

3.  It will no doubt come as little surprise to know that Newham is supportive of the geographical distribution recommended by the Casino Advisory Panel. This view and support for a casino in Newham has become more focused following two key processes - review by an Independent Commission (chaired by Sir Henry Brooke) and a citizen's jury held in the borough. I set out those processes and key findings in the attached appendix [not submitted].

Newham's position

4.  As you will see, Newham has gone through an intensive process of looking at the evidence, assessing the impact locally, and understanding residents' views. As a consequence, we support a casino in Newham because it will complement our regeneration programme, including, crucially, providing employment opportunities for local people.

5.  Newham has the third highest rates of worklessness in the country and DWP figures show us that that there are 18,000 in Newham who have never worked. Worklessness is the greatest factor in high levels of poverty in the borough.

6.  Combined with major developments such as Stratford City - a mixed retail, business and housing development-the casino will bring a range of employment opportunities including much needed entry level jobs. We are of course playing our part in making sure that residents are job-ready, including the provision of the skills employers tell us they needs and ensuring that barriers such as the benefits trap and child care needs are removed.

7.  Developers understand the need to develop a skilled workforce for their planned leisure facilities - the regulatory and financial aspects of a casino would make this an even greater priority.

8.  The main potential operators all have recognition with trade unions - the GMB or Unite. The trade unions themselves believe that casinos can have a significant regenerative impact and act as a base or catalyst for other leisure developments. GMB locally have already publicly stated their support for the development of a Casino in the borough a means of providing quality, unionised jobs with training and development opportunities for local workers.

9.  I understand that you have highlighted three key issues in evaluating the Order. Newham's response to each of those issues is set out below. However, I should first note that local authorities will take a significant role in ensuring the public interest in relation to the legislation is served - most notably measuring impact, ensuring benefits realisation, preventing crime and protecting the vulnerable from harm. As Newham's community leader and chief advocate I take this duty seriously. Furthermore I believe that the application of a local gambling policy and the premises licensing and competition processes provide the tools to undertake that duty.

Extent to which the Gambling Act's licensing objectives of preventing crime and protecting the vulnerable from harm had been reflected in the selection criteria

10.  I cannot comment on behalf of the CAP's decision making process, but I believe that our submission carefully considered these matters which continue to be central concerns in the process going forward.

11.  In common with the national picture, Crime and ASB is already a major issue for Newham's residents. The Independent Commission heard that the Metropolitan Police have found no correlation between casinos and prostitution in the context of London. This view is also reflected in the majority of research abroad.

12.  The Metropolitan Police team who provided evidence voiced the view to the Independent Commission that there is no link between casinos and prostitution. Newham's Borough Commander is of the opinion that a large supermarket would bring more crime/anti-social behaviour than a casino. The Met also felt that a casino would have a sufficient level of security in place and a stringent enough admissions policy to ensure that crime did not become a problem. Indeed, this would be a requirement of our gambling policy and within the competition process. The successful operator would also be subject to stringent monitoring in this respect.

13.  The evidence shows that problem gambling is prevalent in forms other than in casinos. The British Gambling Prevalence Survey 2007 found the problem gambling prevalence rate was the same as it had been in 1999 (0.6%). Problem gambling growth areas were focused on internet-based gambling and fixed odds terminals in bookmakers. The highest prevalence of problem gambling was found among those who participated in the past year in spread betting (14.7%), fixed odds betting terminals (11.2%) and betting exchanges (9.8%). There are links between problem gambling and deprivation as well as amongst certain ethnic groups.

14.  GamCare states that in many bookmakers, revenue generated from fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs) now exceeds traditional over-the-counter gambling. Up to £100 can be staked on an individual bet. Debit cards are accepted over the counter. The Gambling Commission licences betting shops and LBN cannot inspect them as we can for other licensed premises - for instance we regularly operate test purchases for the sale of alcohol, cigarettes and knives and undertake related legal action. It is fair to suspect that oversight of FBOT machines by bookmaker staff is not as focussed or effective as the oversight operated by casino operators.

15.  Thus problem gambling already exists within Newham, with or without a casino. Local Authorities do not have strategies for tackling problem gambling, but Newham is in the process of developing a strategy including information sharing and enforcement activities. In Newham we also have specific issues with slot machine operators on the high street, illegal fruit machines in fast food shops and illegal street gambling. I want a casino operator who will not only deal effectively with the problem in their casino but also help resource and support a sustained campaign against the wider problem. Any operator would have to satisfy conditions we lay down - including avoiding passive gambling or causing cultural offence. I want those safeguards to be the toughest in the country.

Freedom set out in the Order to issue a licence for any site within that authoritys area - non-limitation to sites proposed to the Panel

16.  We support a competition process as the means of ensuring the best development for local people. Thus we support freedom within the Order to consider all applications in terms of supporting an open competition process. Of overriding importance is ensuring that the premises licence and competition processes and outcome meet public expectations including realisation of benefits, control of crime and antisocial behaviour and protection of the vulnerable from harm. Adherence to such principles will ensure that the licensed operator is sited in a location which responds to the public interest.

17.  Realistically, in an urban area, there is a limit to the potential sites that could be developed as a casino, and the sites set out within our original submission to CAP remain the most likely applicants. Equally, the principles set out in our submission to CAP hold true as the guidelines for the controls and benefits within our policies and competition process. One of the clear benefits of the licensing/competition process will be our ability to lever the best possible deal in terms of employment, regeneration, security and controls, from sites where the impact can be highly controlled - and away from residential sites, schools and the like as set out in our gambling policy.

18.  The potential developers tell us that a casino in Newham would be aimed and marketed at pockets of affluence outside the borough - primarily Canary Wharf and the wider South East - rather than local residents. Residents would have access to the wider leisure and entertainment facilities as well as benefiting from the employment and regeneration an entertainment complex would bring.

19.  The Newham licence is highly sought after because of its location within the M25 and affords access to the South East. Infrastructure, especially after 2012, would allow operators to easily and effectively attract visitors from outside the borough.

Traceability of social impact, particularly in an urban context

20.  The Committee raises an important point regarding the need to test the social impact of the casino - benefits and negative aspects - effectively and independently from other influencing factors.

21.  Newham has long invested in independent, robust and longitudinal research as a means of measuring the impact of what we do and guiding our policies and service provision.

22.  We are the only local authority area outside of Los Angeles to commission a Household Panel Survey, now in its fifth wave. The survey allows us to trace the circumstances, attitudes, well- being and lifestyles of households across the borough on a longitudinal basis. We also commission surveys on liveability (testing residents' experience of local areas and services), young people, older people, resident satisfaction and different communities living in the borough. In addition we undertake service user surveys (such as our annual tenants and leaseholder survey) and commission research to understand particular issues, using tools such as focus groups, impact assessments and in-depth studies of individuals' circumstance.

23.  I am committed to understanding the effects of a casino in Newham, not least because I want to ensure that we will be meeting our objectives I am confident. that, such is our expertise in research and evaluation, we will ensure a robust assessment of the impact of a casino rather than measuring wider regeneration or developments.

Sir Robin Wales


2 May 2008

Letter from Scarborough Borough Council

1.  Having recently read the Merits of Statutory Instruments Committee report relating to The Gambling Order 2008 (Geographical distribution of Casino Premises Licences). Scarborough Borough Council would like to take this opportunity to provide you with some additional information and clarification on the issues raised in the report and request your support in ratification of the related Parliamentary Order.

2.  As you are no doubt aware Scarborough Borough was recommended by the Casino Advisory Panel (CAP) for a small casino within the previously debated Order of 2007.

3.  It is our consideration that the CAP process, which spanned 16 months, was rigorous, transparent and fair and that the criteria, based on the Governments National Policy Statement announced in Parliament in 2004, were clearly defined and consistently applied.

4.  Scarborough is currently experiencing a significant period of regeneration under its "Renaissance Programme" however there remains much work to be done in order to maintain the momentum gained and secure a sustainable future by embracing and developing diverse opportunities for the future of the town and its residents.

5.  A new casino development in Scarborough, when coupled with the associated regeneration opportunities, would provide a greatly valued element to achieving this goal.

6.  With regard to the 2005 Gambling Act Licensing Objectives of preventing crime and protecting the vulnerable from harm Scarborough has for a long time been host to casino's and gaming in one form or another. There is no evidence to suggest that such activity when properly regulated and managed has any detrimental effect on crime and disorder.

7.  We do acknowledge that casino gaming has the potential to create additional opportunities for problem gambling to occur. However, Scarborough is currently host to one casino (not two as stated within the Merits Committee report) and a number of amusement arcades, bingo halls and betting shops. Amongst the local populous gaming is therefore part of the accepted culture and economy. A new destination casino as proposed within Scarborough would do little to change this culture or increase incidents of problem gaming.

8.  In addition, Scarborough Borough Council, as part of its criteria for the selection of a casino operator will stipulate that any developer proposing to build and operate a new casino in Scarborough provide awareness, education and support for the prevention and treatment of problem gambling, not only within the new development but throughout the Borough and in association with the other gaming providers within the town. Therefore the development would provide an invaluable infrastructure to protect the vulnerable, which doesn't currently exist.

9.  In relation to the issue of traceability and measurement of social impact and the perceived problems of differentiating between the regeneration brought about from a new casino development and the existing regeneration programme. As stated previously Scarborough is currently undergoing a significant period of regeneration, much baseline data on the Boroughs socio-economic profile has been gathered. A great deal of the work undertaken within the town has been with the financial support of external funding partners. As a result, detailed records have and are being made to record the socio-economic outputs resulting from Scarborough's existing regeneration activities.

10.  Additionally, we are committed to recording and interpreting the impact of a new casino in Scarborough, in line with the objectives of Government and at a local level to ensure that the regeneration aspirations, objectives and well-being of the town are being met.

11.  The impacts of a new casino development will therefore be readily differentiated from the existing regeneration activities.

Tom Fox

Leader of the Council

8 May 2008

Letter from Southampton City Council

1.  As you will be aware, Southampton has been identified as one of the areas which, under the draft Order, would be granted the ability to award a licence for a large casino.

2.  The Council is aware that the draft Order was debated by the Merits of Statutory Instruments Committee in March of this year and has sight of the Committee's Fourteenth Report.

3.  We are very concerned that the Committee did not seek to request further or updated information from those authorities directly affected and sought to rely on the data and evidence submitted by authorities during the original bid process. Obviously, since those bids were submitted being nearly two years ago, matters have moved on and accordingly some of the information presented to the Merits Committee is outdated or, in some cases, wholly irrelevant.

4.  With regard to Southampton, in paragraph 24 of the Fourteenth Report, reference is specifically made to evidence that the Committee sought last year during its previous consideration as to how the competition for the licence could be fair in certain situations. The information supplied by the Council at that time was correct, but it was based on the Council's submission for a regional casino. We do consider it very important that the current position is placed before the House of Lords when considering the draft Order.

5.  It appears from the Merit Committee reports that they were concerned about, or gave the impression of, partiality and the fairness of any award competition when any Council had previously entered into some form of exclusivity agreement with a potential applicant.

6.  From Southampton's perspective, we had never courted, identified or appointed a preferred operator either at that time or since. What we did have in place was a time limited exclusivity agreement during the time of our bid for a regional casino licence with an interested party. Subsequently, the Council was not short-listed for a regional casino but has been awarded a large casino licence. The operator party to the exclusivity agreement terminated the contract and has, we understand, withdrawn from the UK gambling market.

7.  The Council does not have nor would it ever seek to have any further exclusivity agreement or preferred operator status being granted to any interested operator and will ensure, as will all other authorities, that any competition process is scrupulously fair and beyond legal challenge. I would not let it be anything less.

8.  The Council's bid was firmly based on the unique regeneration benefits that the casino and related development would bring to deprived areas of the city including an ambitious but achievable aspiration to reclaim parts of the sea and significantly extend Mayflower Park in the heart of the city and adjacent to the Port of Southampton . Those aspirations still remain together with the direct and indirect job creation that the development would bring.

9.  The Council, cross party, is also acutely aware of the possible impact that a new casino could have on the community, or certain parts of the community, and was extremely open in its bid to the Casino Advisory Panel that it would seek to place significant responsibilities on any operator awarded a licence together with detailed and workable requirements as a part the competition criteria to ensure that any operator granted a licence would be contractually bound in addition to any licence conditions attached to ensure that it fully met those responsibilities together with the Council and other responsible authorities, the Primary Care Trust, Gamcare and like bodies. However, it has to be said that there are already three well established casinos in the city and that they are very well run and have no discernable negative impact on the community. It is fully appreciated that any new style of casino would be larger than the existing ones and accordingly this may attract those who may previously have not been interested in gambling. We are fully ready to meet the possible effects of this.

10.  Accordingly, we would urge the House of Lords to give its approval to the draft Order.

Mark Heath

Solicitor to the Council

9 May 2008

Letter from the City and County of Swansea Council

1.  I am writing in respect of the above Order which will be debated on 15 May, and which is of great significance to the City and County of Swansea. If approved, the Order would authorise sixteen local authorities (including Swansea) to license the eight large and eight small casinos permitted by the Gambling Act 2005. I hope you will allow me to make some comments in advance of the debate.

2.  Swansea is greatly encouraged by the Culture Secretary's statement on casino policy to the House of Commons on 26 February 2008. In this statement, he confirmed that there was a consensus of views, including those expressed by Opposition front bench and by their Lordships, calling for the sixteen local authorities identified by the independent Casino Advisory Panel to be incorporated into a fresh Order. In laying the new Order before Parliament, the Minister has given both Houses the opportunity to confirm their views and approve the Order. We were pleased to learn that the Order was approved by the House of Commons on 26 March 2008.

3.  We feel the Culture Secretary has also responded positively to the concerns expressed by the House of Lords Merits of Statutory Instruments Committee. In withdrawing the authorisation of a regional casino from the fresh Order, he has addressed the issues raised in the Committee's 13th Report of Session 2006-7, which focussed on the sift for the regional casino. In relation to the Committee's 14th Report of Session 2007-8, the Culture Secretary has confirmed to the Committee that its concerns about the minimisation of harm would be addressed by the new rules imposed on all casinos, the extensive enforcement powers available to the Gambling Commission and the local authorities, and by the limited number of new casinos permitted under the Act. He also indicated (and the Committee acknowledges) that the sixteen local authorities represent a good range of types of areas and a good geographical spread "in order properly to assess the impact of the new casinos…", in line with the December 2004 National Policy Statement on casinos.

4.  I can confirm that Swansea is fully committed to the prevention of crime and the protection of the public from harm. We will ensure that any application for the small casino licence is considered on its consistency with the regulatory licensing objectives, and is evaluated on the avoidance of harm as well as the positive benefits the applicant's proposals could bring to the public and the community at large. The Authority will use its additional powers to ensure that gambling is stringently controlled, both within a venue and across an area. We will continue our action to remove gaming machines from unlicensed premises, and work with the casino operators and our local strategic partners to ensure that gambling activity is properly conducted and that vulnerable groups are protected, and where necessary, supported.

5.  We acknowledge the Committee's concern that our application for licensing powers suggested a city centre site for the potential casino development, and the opportunity that may arise for casual problem gambling. I would, however, say that Swansea has not confirmed any preferred site, and we would welcome the opportunity of an open competition to consider the merits of sites in any part of the Authority area coming forward that can demonstrate the greatest benefit to Swansea, not only in terms of the regeneration potential to our area, but also of the avoidance of crime and harm.

6.  We also note the Committee's reservations about the traceability of social impact in relation to the casino. Swansea's responses to the Casino Advisory Panel's indicated the mechanisms and partnerships in place as well as some of the indicators we would use to assess the social and economic impact of a new casino. Whilst our comments were accepted by the Panel, we welcome the Committee's additional comments and we will strive to create a robust monitoring framework that will enable the impact of the casino to be reliably and clearly determined.

7.  Swansea is obviously anxious to secure the regeneration benefits anticipated from the issue of the small casino licence. At the same time, we are committed to the aims of the legislation and the licensing objectives in relation to preventing crime and disorder, protecting children and the vulnerable from harm and exploitation, and ensuring that gambling is conducted in a fair and open way. We are keen to maximise the benefits from the licence and the legislation and to generate positive outcomes in terms of prosperity and safety within our communities.

Paul Smith

Chief Executive

9 May 2008

Letter from Torbay Council

Torbay's Small Casino licence submission

1.  I am writing following the publication of the Committee's report on the Draft Gambling (Geographical Distribution of Large and Small Casino Premises Licences) Order 2008 and ahead of the imminent debate to set out Torbay's continued commitment to deliver a high quality successful regeneration project using the casino license as a way to attract much needed new investment to the area.

2.  Our submission to the Casino Advisory Panel was made against the background of an economy depending heavily on tourism and in need of a stronger product offer to attract more and new visitors to Torbay. This position remains the same and the development of casino with accompanying and complementary facilities remains consistent with our Community Plan and Economic Regeneration strategy.

3.  I would also like to reaffirm the commitment of time that officers, members of the Council and I have invested in the process over a long period to ensure that the implementation of a license in Torbay delivers the strongest regeneration benefits for the area. I can assure you of our absolute commitment to the minimization of harm. As you will be aware there are different stages of the licensing process where we will be testing operator's commitment to providing a positive benefit and minimizing harm. To that end we have committed in our proposal to the Advisory Panel that we would seek to establish a study to analyse risk and potential harm from a casino.

4.  In terms of the details of our proposal Torbay has not specified a site in its submission and we have not engaged in negotiations with operators to pre identify an operator. We believe that this leaves us in a strong position to get the regeneration benefits we require.

5.  We were reassured by the apparent cross-party support for the 16 casino areas in last year's debates and believe that very little has changed in that time which should weaken that support and would hope that the debate continues to reflect that view.

6.  You may not be aware that Torbay is now the poorest area in the South West and in the absence of major EU funding programmes such as in Cornwall we are looking at a range of complementary regeneration schemes in Torbay. In conclusion, Torbay is, and was, committed to the project and to the aims of the Gambling Act to minimize harm and to maximize benefit, and to the objective of enabling impact to be tested.

Nick Bye


9 May 2008

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