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Tuesday, 2 April, 2002, 08:49 GMT 09:49 UK
Should gambling be encouraged?
Peter Moore, the Chairman of the Blackpool regeneration team joined us for a live forum on Tuesday 26th March.

To watch coverage of the forum, select the link below:


Las Vegas-style casinos could be on their way to the UK under a radical shake-up of gaming laws.

Under government proposals, casinos would be allowed to scrap upper limits currently in place on slot machine prizes and offer unlimited jackpots.

The ban on serving alcohol on casino gambling floors would also be lifted.

Blackpool in Lancashire, the UK's biggest seaside resort, is already planning to take advantage of the changes.

However, religious groups including the Methodist Church as well as Gamblers Anonymous have expressed concern that the proposals could lead to addiction.

Should Britain's gambling laws be brought up to date? Would relaxation inevitably lead to more addiction?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

Your reaction

Why should we maintain draconian measures in regard to gambling. People should be free to spend leisure time and their money however they wish. To scare monger over a small percentage of people who may become addicted is ridiculous. If this is justification then why don't we ban all booze because we have a few alchoholics? As long as the gaming licences are correctly monitered and we don't have criminals taking over the industry, it will do no harm. It may even bring in a few more tourists that would otherwise have flown to Vegas.
Baz, England

The relaxation of the gambling laws can only do more damage to our society

Peter CB, UK
Just as many drug addicts support their habit through theft and burglary, so too will many of those addicted to gambling. A lot of people are going to pay the price for this madness, and not just the gamblers! The relaxation of the gambling laws can only do more damage to our society. It will only lead to more families being torn apart and more social depravation.
Peter CB, UK

I'll bet you ten quid that it won't work.
Andrew, Britain

For most of us, gambling is just a fun thing to do on fun occasions. If the government makes money out of it, then so be it. It's better than yanking up the petrol taxes again. But I question the decision to allow people to pay for their gambling with a credit card. I understand how this might be important for overseas visitors, but to me it seems as just another way of getting a lot of desperate people into even worse financial troubles.
Christine, UK

Seeing as how we are no longer an industrial nation, we have to diversify into areas which provide some form of employment.

Phil T, Oman
It is true that gambling can become addictive for some people. However, these people are probably already addicted anyway. Doing away with an upper limit could possibly encourage much needed tourism into certain parts of the UK, thereby increasing employment. Allowing alcohol into casinos will also increase their popularity. We could end up with a Las Vegas-style resort in Blackpool, providing additional income to that area. Seeing as how we are no longer an industrial nation, we have to diversify into areas which provide some form of employment and source of possible foreign income.
Phil T, Oman

I never cease to be amazed as, one by one, the things that make Britain an example to the world are eroded away, in the mad pursuit of profit. Visit any newsagents on a poor housing estate and there you will see people spending much more than they can afford on scratch cards, in the desperate hope of winning thousands - after all, it's got to happen sometime if they keep playing, right? I am a professional in my thirties who is becoming more and more ashamed of this country with each passing month, and this decision is the latest disgrace in a long line of pathetic and shameful attacks on our British standards of living. That anyone would even dream of describing gambling as a legitimate and productive form of wealth generation is simply beyond the pale.
Blewyn, UK

After my biggest win: 2,000 in an hour, I never went back

Rachael, UK
I used to go to the casino when I was a student and play roulette. I would have been one of those "hated" punters as I kept winning! After my biggest win: 2,000 in an hour, I never went back. I had the strength to leave when I knew I was on top. However, whilst I was in the casinos I saw many people who spent hours a day gambling, had lost all their family and friends, their dignity and any money they had. People are also very aggressive on the gaming floor - serving alcohol is likely to lead to even more punter/croupier confrontations and possible alcohol and greed fuelled fights. If these proposals do go ahead, perhaps the government could fund a qualified counsellor to be on hand in every casino?
Rachael, UK

We are already a nation addicted to alcohol, the Government want to relax drug laws for the drug addicts and now we want gambling addicts too. What is this Country coming to?
Laura D/J, UK

It will be interesting to see how the National Lottery fairs .

David Hazel, UK
It will be interesting to see how the National Lottery fairs with gambling thrown open in this way. Will people stick with the twice a week slim chance to win big money, or will they switch to being able to have a flutter whenever they want for a more immediate, and more modest amount of money with better odds?
David Hazel, UK

I don't want to live in a nanny state. If I want to walk into a casino then why shouldn't I? Not everyone is capable of addiction to gambling. Most people give up if they get their fingers burnt but a small minority go "on tilt" and continue compulsively even though that know they are on a loser. Same story with alcohol, drugs, etc. If some religious groups had their way, alcohol would be banned, shops would close on Sundays, no contraception, etc ... the list is long.

The government will raise more taxes presumably and they have a responsibility to ensure that the casinos are run fairly and safely. Any casino caught ripping off customers should be shut down and their owners prosecuted. The extra tax raised should be partly used to pay for inspectors.
Rick, UK

Casino type hotels in Britain will be terrible and won't work. The UK will never provide fantastic, luxury hotels with comfortable king sized beds for a reasonable cost, all you can eat seafood buffets for 10, and great shows without tacky panto has-beens in the lead roles. Instead the "recreation" of Vegas in Blackpool will involve some sort of psuedo-american culture, pimply 16 year olds providing poor service, too much expense, and rainy weather. It will only appeal to those who haven't got the resources/initiative to visit the real thing in Nevada!
Sarah, UK

The new laws have the potential to create an enormous number of jobs

Dave, USA
As a Briton living in Las Vegas and working in the largest hotel casino in the world I can only applaud the British government for finally making some much needed changes to the UK's outdated gambling laws. Las Vegas is the fastest growing city in the United States and property values are skyrocketing as the city continues to prosper. The new laws have the potential to create an enormous number of jobs and to reinvigorate some very dilapidated regions of the UK. I for one am all for it.
Dave, USA

The gains of gambling aren't worth the trouble. Most of the casino jobs in Las Vegas are centred around Mexican immigrants willing to work for low wages. And if anyone doesn't think crime is associated with gambling, tour the Las Vegas police department. They are so heavily armed, they could defeat most countries in a war!
Dean M, USA

Coming from one of many thousands of families torn apart by problem gambling, I can assure you that there is a direct link between gambling availability and social collapse. Every extra poker machine means another child from a broken home, and no amount of promised "funding" to gambling addiction programmes will provide a solution. Prevention is better than cure.
Steve, Australia

It will only create more facilities at which low income families will be able to squander even more money

Steve, Auckland, New Zealand
Being a Brit living in New Zealand I think that allowing this type of legislation is very bad. It will only create more facilities at which low income families will be able to squander even more money in search of a dream. In NZ the already large percentage of the population which has little or no money to waste constitutes the biggest users of such casinos. People leave children to die in overheating cars whilst wasting their dole on slot machines 24 hours a day.
Steve, Auckland, New Zealand

Personally I'm not fond of gambling but I love going to Las Vegas. Why? Because of the excellent shows, food, and the wacky hotels. Last time my wife and I went, we put a total of ten dollars in the machines all weekend (5c machines), and came home with almost all of it. Casinos can mean so much more than just gambling, if it is done right.
Peter, UK (Living in US)

I think this an excellent way to encourage investment in an area of the country that really needs it. Maybe businesses can succeed where the government has failed.
Simon, London, UK

It's all just a bit of fun

Stephen, USA
I'm a British national living in the US and love to go to the casinos here. They are so popular and it's all just a bit of fun. The UK really is living in the dark ages.
Stephen, USA

I lived in Melbourne for six months and saw the horrific problems caused by the gambling facilities everywhere. The state gains massive revenues from all gambling venues, so it has no incentive to stop the problems. Australian casinos make up a fifth of the total worldwide. Stories of young children being left in cars (with some dying from heat exhaustion) are not rumours. Some Melbourne casinos need special patrols in their car parks to look for children abandoned for hours and hours by themselves, some of them only a year or two old. New Zealand is going down the same road, and it is impossible to find a pub that does not have multitudes of pokie machines.
Tracy Lee, UK

I went to Las Vegas last month and had a blast. Winning was not my intention - I set myself a limit to loose. Gambling is an enjoyable pastime which should not be denied by a government. Think of all the restaurant, entertainment and security jobs this will bring. By the way - I broke even - which was not a bad return for six hours of fun.
Geoff Dawson, USA

Like many of life's pleasures there can be a downside to it if allowed to go unmeasured. For as long as people have been drinking there have been a few who got addicted, and gambling is the same. Some people have an addictive nature and will become hooked on something they enjoy - whether it be drink, drugs, gambling, or sex. Relaxing the laws doesn't suddenly make gambling legal so it's not like a sudden change - there are more betting shops than there will ever be casinos. I just hope though that any extra profits do go to help those who get addicted and help them before they lose everything. Anyway, I'd rather gamble at my local casino, a massive complex at Blackpool will only be out to make massive profits to make back its development cost so the chances of a big win are reduced.
Phil, England

The government has just rolled a double-zero with this one

Andrew, London
As a reformed gambler, I am someone who can speak with authority on this issue. The only people who benefit from this scheme will be the small number of (already rich) people operating casinos. The staff at casinos are generally lowly paid, they don't have transferable skills and contrary to popular belief the majority of gamblers are not the super-rich but the super-desperate, sucked into a lifestyle that robs them of their money, their hope and their dignity. The government has just rolled a double-zero with this one.
Andrew, London

For once, this country is coming into line with the 21st century. Most of our laws on drinking, gambling, etc were made long before I was born. It's about time we enjoyed ourselves. I would say that it would be good if these so-called 'Las Vegas' style casinos could give a bit of cash to help fund agencies like Gamblers Anonymous.
Lee A, UK

I am an ex-casino employee and left just under a year ago where I was a relief manager/Pit Boss. I am pleased for the industry that this relaxation has come about. What the greater majority of the population do not realise that is that there is a lot more to casinos than gambling!! The casino that I worked at encouraged membership for use of their restaurants and bars as well as their gaming facilities, thereby offering a safe and secure environment for people of all backgrounds to enjoy a peaceful evening out. Naturally, gaming was the core of their business, but the greater emphasis was not placed upon this aspect of the casino.
Neil Fellowes, Great Yarmouth, UK

Be prepared to pick up the pieces

Graham, UK
On principle I think adults should be allowed to gamble if they wish to. But the addictive nature of gambling should not be underestimated. Melbourne introduced a monstrous casino in the heart of the city. It was open 24/7 and had no clocks or windows. Problem gambling skyrocketed and there are still regular stories of addicts bankrupting families, stealing and ruining lives. There have also been instances of people leaving children in cars while they go in for many hours to gamble their money. Allow it. But be prepared to pick up the pieces.
Graham, UK

It's yet another step on the slippery slope towards becoming a tacky has-been nation.
Simon, UK

The only winners in gambling are the casinos and anyone who tells you otherwise works for a casino!
T. Lowey, England

There are plenty of betting shops around already. Our seaside towns are fine as they are. Let's not ruin another part of Britain to satisfying what is a pretty unsavoury pastime.
D. Morris, England

Blackpool needs to catch up

David LJ, Isle of Man, UK
We have had a casino here on the Isle of Man in Douglas, right in the centre of the main promenade, since 1966, and there have been no increased levels of addiction to gambling here on the island. The Casino is well policed by the staff and they operate a very strict over 21 policy. Douglas was the first to have illuminations on its promenade and a casino. Blackpool needs to catch up - it's nearly 40 years behind!
David LJ, Isle of Man, UK

Just what exactly is trying to be achieved here? I can't see hoards of overseas money pouring into our slot machines, so the only goal as far as I can see is to distribute wealth from many gullible losers to a few unscrupulous businessmen. Surely there's more pressing matters for libertarian-minded legal reformers?
Richard N, UK

Las Vegas is the centre point for most of America's gambling, hence the reason for the high concentration of desperately addicted gamblers. Britain on the other hand has grown up with gambling. Yes a few people have problems but we can't ruin the fun for the majority.
Rob, England

Why we would want to recreate such a sad and shallow town in the UK is a mystery to me

Richie T, UK
I have been to Las Vegas and found it to be a terribly depressing town full of old people throwing their savings into slot machines. Why we would want to recreate such a sad and shallow town in the UK is a mystery to me.
Richie T, UK

These proposals seem quite sensible to me, with the provision for 'problem' gambling. I don't agree with the doom-mongers who say we'll all end up gambling our children's dinner money or whatever. I went to Las Vegas recently and it's not as tacky as I thought. The sheer scale and frankly lunatic nature of things is immensely impressive. Bring it on!
Jon Cooper, UK

So long as the people losing the money don't expect the taxpayer to bail them out (like Railtrack shareholders), they can do as they like!
Richard, UK

Our seaside areas need rejuvenation and this seems a good way to do it

Phillip Holley, UK
Sure, gambling is addictive but then anything enjoyable is addictive really and most adults recognise that too much of any good thing is a road to ruin. Our seaside areas need rejuvenation and this seems a good way to do it.
Phillip Holley, UK

Well the Government already incessantly gambles on the state of the railways, the NHS, the education system and the police so the general public may as well be allowed to enjoy a good gamble as well!
Steve West, UK

I can't imagine a single benefit in this change. Having experienced the US approach to gambling, I see only individual people losing a lot of money, increased levels of addiction to gambling and dedicated gambling resorts of mind boggling ugliness.
K. Sadler, UK

See also:

26 Mar 02 | UK Politics
UK gambling laws relaxed
26 Mar 02 | UK Politics
UK poised for 'Las Vegas' casinos
04 Oct 01 | England
Blackpool's 'Vegas' aim derided

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