In advance of Wednesday's votes in Parliament on the geographical
distribution of casino premises licences, The Salvation Army and the
Methodist Church have re-stated their general concerns relating to increased
gambling opportunities, particularly the potentially devastating effects on
the vulnerable. 'Evidence suggests that the new casinos, the increasing
popularity of online gambling and the general drift towards the
"normalisation" of gambling within British culture, could result in many
more people developing a serious gambling addiction over an extended period.
We are not convinced that increasing gambling opportunities is a good thing
for our nation and all of us who live here,' said Alison Jackson, Secretary
for Parliamentary and Political Affairs for the Methodist Church. The 'super
casino' will house up to 1,250 highly addictive unlimited jackpot machines.
The other 16 new casinos will be larger than anything currently operating in
the UK. While the Methodist Church and The Salvation Army have welcomed the
Government's recognition of the need for protection under the Act for
vulnerable people and children, they believe there are still some
fundamental issues to be addressed in this debate. 'The Salvation Army and
the Methodist Church would have preferred to see no new casinos allowed
under the Gambling Act 2005. We therefore welcome any debate which allows
space for a further consideration of the overall impact of increased
gambling opportunities,' said Captain Matt Spencer, of The Salvation Army.
It is estimated that there are already around 400,000 problem gamblers in
the UK and the super casino will house some of the most addictive forms of
gambling. Problem gambling can result in relationship breakdown, financial
ruin, homelessness and in extreme cases, suicide. Its effects are
far-reaching, impacting not only the individual gambler, but also their
family, friends, and the wider community. The Salvation Army and the
Methodist Church campaigned during the passage of the Gambling Bill,
requesting greater measures to protect children and vulnerable people The
Gambling Act includes provision for the proper monitoring of the effects of
these increased gambling opportunities and the two Churches have recently
reminded the government of the need to keep to its commitments to properly
evaluate the effects of the new casinos, wherever they may be sited.
The minimum casino evaluation period of three years must be measured from
the opening of the new casinos, rather than from the awarding of the
licences, as there could be a considerable amount of time between the
license being awarded and the casino actually opening.
The Salvation Army is an international Christian church and registered
charity working in 111 countries worldwide and is one of the largest, most
diverse providers of social welfare in the world.
The Methodist Church is the third-largest Christian church in Great Britain,
with over 300,000 members and regular contact with 1 million more people. It
has over 6,000 churches in Great Britain, and also maintains links with
other Methodist churches totalling a worldwide membership of 70 million.