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Last Updated: Sunday, 31 October 2004, 13:39 GMT
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Please note BBC Politics Show must be credited if any part of this transcript is used.

NB:This transcript was typed from a recording and not copied from an original script.

Because of the possibility of mis-hearing and the difficulty, in some cases, of identifying individual speakers, the BBC cannot vouch for its accuracy.


On Politics Show, on Sunday, 31, October 2004, Jeremy Vine discussed the Gambling Bill with:

  • Lord McIntosh, Minister for Gambling Regulation
  • John Whittingdale, MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media & Sport

Discussion on the Gambling Bill between Lord McIntosh, Minister for Gambling Regulation and John Whittingdale, Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sports

Jeremy Vine: I'm joined now by Andrew McIntosh, Minister for Gambling Regulation, and by the Conservatives¿, John Whittingdale, who's Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport. Mr Whittingdale, what do you want to happen here?

John Whittingdale, MP
John Whittingdale, MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media & Sport

John Whittingdale: Well, the whole history of gambling regulation to date has been one of a slow gradual process of liberalisation. And originally it looked as if that's what would happen, we would have a small number of these large casinos, and they would be located away from town centres, so that people would need to make a conscious effort if they wanted to go and visit them.

But now, the Government has reversed that and appears to be throwing open the doors to a huge number of these mega casinos located right in the centre of towns and our concern is that is going to lead to an increase in problem gambling.

Jeremy Vine: Andrew McIntosh.

Lord McIntosh
Lord McIntosh of Haringey, Minister for Media and Heritage

Lord McIntosh: Well there's certainly no presumption that casinos will be located right in the centre of towns as John Whittingdale says, where people will walk into them. The whole policy is that it should be destination gambling; that people should make a conscious decision that they want to go to a casino. It's also, quite untrue that there are going to be hundreds of these things. The best estimates that the industry makes, and we think they're pretty soundly based, are that there will be something like between twenty and forty.

Now, if we have that situation, where the very limited number of casinos, very much on er, er destination areas, and where these are the only places where category A jackpot machines are allowed, then we're very close indeed to what John Greenway and his committee were recommending.

Jeremy Vine: What evidence do you have that people that people want these things?

Lord McIntosh: Oh, there is a great deal of casino type gambling going on at the moment, and it is actually increasing, I mean you, like it or not, it is casino games that people are playing on the internet which er is at the moment totally unregulated, and the Bill will bring under regulation. It is roulette type games that have been introduced in betting offices. Eight thousand betting offices not twenty to forty.

Jeremy Vine: So John Whittingdale, the market says, yes.

John Whittingdale: Well, we agree with the Government that there is a need for regulation, certainly of the internet and there is much in the Bill we welcome. But Lord McIntosh is not correct to say that there is no indication that the Government wants these things to go in to town centres.

The DCMS may have said originally, that they wanted them to be away from town centres, but the office of the Deputy Prime Minister, which is responsible for planning policy, said specifically, that the preference would be for town centre development, and if they weren't in town centres, they would want to know why.

Jeremy Vine: Let me just put this quote to you from the Archbishop of Cardiff, the Catholic Archbishop, Peter Smith. I think he's on the screen, that it's the vulnerable adults who can be caught in this, and the social effects of obsessive gambling are dreadful, and he's against it.

Lord McIntosh: I agree entirely with what he says about the dreadful effects ... but the, the one guarantee I can really give you is that there will be no more problem gambling with this Bill than there would be without the Bill.

BOTH TOGHETER

Jeremy Vine: You can't give that guarantee can you?

Lord McIntosh: What people (fluffs) I can give a guarantee that they - Well, who will prove it of course.

Jeremy Vine: Well exactly.

Lord McIntosh: Problem gambling is going to increase without the Bill, because the protections we introduce in the Bill, will not be available, because internet gambling will be uncontrolled, because it, it is unlikely that we'll be able to control the roulette machines, which are now in betting offices.

Jeremy Vine: (overlaps) But it will be easier for people to gamble, because there will be more places to gamble, won't there?

Lord McIntosh: No, er on the contrary, there are more places to gamble and, because of the deficiencies of the existing law, what we're introducing is a very very limited number of ... indeed, of places where people use casinos.

If you take Australia. Australia is not a casino problem, Australia's a machine problem; what they call pokies. That could happen in this country, but it could only happen if we don't have the Bill, not if we do have the Bill.

Jeremy Vine: John Whittingdale.

John Whittingdale: Well, these casinos are unlike anything that we have ever seen in this country before. The operators, who are investing here, are doing so on the basis that they are going to have something like twenty thousand people through the door every week.

That is a huge increase in the number of people who gamble, but obviously, it is going to result in some increase in problem gambling. And these poker machines, which Lord McIntosh refers to, the ones with unlimited prizes, each one of these casinos can have up to one thousand two hundred and fifty of those machines inside them.

Jeremy Vine: But hang on a sec. Your party were supposed to be the great deregulators, you, you just appointed a minister for deregulation, and now you're saying they're deregulating too much.

John Whittingdale: Well, we are in favour a gradual liberalisation but gambling does need to be strictly regulated. It does cause problems.

Jeremy Vine: (overlaps) That's what he's saying.

John Whittingdale: Well, our view is that this is going too far too fast. It would be much more sensible to limit the number of these very large casinos, place them out of towns, and then see whether or not it does cause an increase, not just throw open the door to putting them all over Britain in our towns.

Jeremy Vine: All right. A very good example to bring before you, which is Blackpool, because when he was asked who apart from American casino owners wanted super casinos, the Prime Minister said, Well go and talk to the people in Blackpool, who urgently need the regeneration. Our North West political editor, Jim Hancock joins us from Manchester. Jim, Blackpool needs and wants a casino.

INTO BLACKPOOL VT

Jeremy Vine: Andrew McIntosh, the whole idea of using casinos to regenerate stops working if there are too many of them. They take business away from each other.

Lord McIntosh: Certainly, we are expecting a very limited number of machine, of casinos, and there will be err the regeneration effects do depend on that very limited number, that is certainly true. But the economics of the business mean that there will be very few casinos.

What we've deliberately done is to set the threshold very high. We've said that, and we've set the ... much tougher threshold than ... in many ways, er, the Greenaway Joint Scrutiny Committee set them. We said, there have got to be a very large number of table gaming machines, table games in these casinos, and they've got to be manned. This is expensive to do.

Jeremy Vine: Okay, well when Tessa Jowell, the Culture Secretary said on Breakfast with Frost this morning, this, ¿I will take very seriously constructive proposals for improving this Bill that arise during the course of its parliamentary scrutiny¿. Was she referring to some sort of way under which you will limit the number, define a cap?

Lord McIntosh: I won't interpret what Tessa Jowell said, we've always said that we will listen very carefully to what people say in Parliament and outside. But it has got to be based on fact. It's got to be based on proper analysis. It's got to, not got to be based on scare stories.

Jeremy Vine: Do you want interpret what Tessa Jowell said for us then.

John Whittingdale: Well, Tessa Jewell's words to me sound like a code for a government in retreat. But in actual fact, some very sensible recommendations were made by the All Party Joint Scrutiny Committee; had they been accepted, it would have gone a long way to introduce the safe guards we want to see, and the Government rejected them. The reason we are in this mess is because the Government refused to listen to an expert committee that had taken evidence from right across the industry.

Jeremy Vine: And Andrew McIntosh, if you're saying thirty or forty years is what you're expecting, why not cap it at that? Why not say no more?

Lord McIntosh: Why ... we have this passion for government interfering in what the market will decide perfectly rationally, and perfectly properly. If people want to gamble in moderation, who are we to say that they should, they shouldn't do that.

Jeremy Vine: Government interferes in lots of things.

Lord McIntosh: Erm ... that doesn't mean that government should interfere in things in which they don't need to interfere and which they don't want to interfere.

Jeremy Vine: But you're drifting quite a long way aren't you, you're drifting quite a long way from the founding principles of the Labour Party and the kind of things your founding fathers believed in.

Lord McIntosh: There are three ways of looking at this. There ... you can either take the prohibitionist way in which case you force gambling to become illegal. You can have a free for all, which I think everybody agrees we're certainly not doing. Or you can have sensible regulation. This government has gone on the path of sensible regulation.

Jeremy Vine: And there's a whiff of snobbery we gather, John Whittingdale, about those people who oppose it because they don't, this the words of Tessa Jowell, they don't like gaudy garish casinos, and they think casinos should be for rich people.

John Whittingdale: I think that's nonsense. Our concern is that if we open the door to an explosion of these things, proliferation, it will lead to an increase in problem gambling. Everybody should be concerned about that and when Lord McIntosh talks about government not interfering, he also says that 90% of this Bill is about toughening the regulation.

Everybody accepts that there does need to be some regulation of gambling. Our approach is a modest liberalisation, and one where we'd monitor how it affects. The Government seem hell bent on throwing open the door.

Jeremy Vine: And we wouldn't be wrong, Lord McIntosh, listening to what Tessa Jowell said this morning that you're preparing for some kind of retreat tomorrow.

Lord McIntosh: We're preparing for sensible discussion in Parliament and I'm sure that's what we'll get.

Jeremy Vine: Andrew McIntosh and John Whittingdale, thank you both very much indeed.


NB:This transcript was typed from a recording and not copied from an original script.

Because of the possibility of mis-hearing and the difficulty, in some cases, of identifying individual speakers, the BBC cannot vouch for its accuracy.


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