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Last Updated: Friday, 22 October, 2004, 09:32 GMT 10:32 UK
Should gambling law change?
A roulette wheel at Gala Casino in Piccadilly, central London
The UK government has announced plans to allow large regional casinos to open offering unlimited jackpots.

The proposals outlined in the Gambling Bill will tighten rules for betting on the internet and remove slot machines from shops and cafes.


Tom Kavanagh, secretary of the Gaming Board of Great Britain, answered your questions on the Bill.

Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell insists the shake-up will be done in a "socially responsible manner".

Critics argue that gambling addiction will rise and we risk being overrun by Las Vegas-style casinos.

Are these proposals a good idea? Will they modernise gambling? Can they provide the industry's regulatory body with greater flexibility but also allow greater enforcement?

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

The following comments reflect the balance of opinion we have received so far:

This topic was suggested by Peter Judge, UK:
Should opportunities for organised gambling be reduced, rather than extended?

This proposal is as corrupt and criminally irresponsible as the epidemic of organised and drug crime which will follow hot on its heels. If anyone needed further proof after the illegal invasion of Iraq that the UK is being sold off to US corporate greed by our morally bankrupt politicians, it's this Gambling Bill.
Colleen Morrison, Harlow, England

Why do we need organised gambling? It produces very little of value to our society, its main function is to move money from the gullible and the addicted to the proprietors. It might create a few jobs, but shouldn't we be trying to create better jobs than this?
Ben, Oxford, UK

Last night on Newsnight I saw the government's case being defended by a bloke from the Adam Smith Institute....have I missed something here? Wasn't it the Conservatives that used to do things that made the Adam Smith Institute happy? Of course the government denies that it has been affected by the gambling lobby. I have given up with Labour.
William, London UK

Tessa Jowell is having a laugh. How can she suggest that any form of gambling on this scale is "socially responsible". These casino companies are no benefit to the UK economy, they won't reduce our balance of payments and they will almost certainly increase gambling addiction. It's almost beggars' belief that any UK Govt would even consider this.
Dick, Scotland

So we have an industry worth 63 billion that will be required to spend a whole 3 million p.a. on addiction into its product. Bet that will go a long way! (Does this remind anyone else of the tobacco industry?)
Victoria Edwards, Birmingham, England

Maybe the law needs updating a bit. For example, taking of the internet sounds like a good idea (though what they can really achieve in trying to regulate that isn't clear). But how many people want enormous great big business casinos? Almost none, except the big businesses. Out of touch? Distant and corporatist? New Labour? Surely not!
Phil Gale, Oxford,UK

This is totally irresponsible and just reinforces the view prevalent today that people can live for today
Mike, Coventry YK
Hypocrites. In the same week that a devastating report into pensions is published, a report that highlights the failure of many people to adequately provide for their retirement, with the real prospect that many employees will need to work beyond the age of 65 in order to earn a decent pension, the Goverment proposes opening the doors to casinos across the country. This is totally irresponsible and just reinforces the view prevalent today that people can live for today, have what they want and have it now , not worry about debt and as for tomorrow well I'm bound to hit the jackpot and all my financial worries will be over!
Mike, Coventry YK

I don't understand the logic of this at all - take away harmless fruit machines with a jackpot of 10 (ie no one will bankrupt themselves for this kind of money) and replace it with fewer machines where you can really get addicted - poker/fruit machines with no limit ! It's a really bad idea... you only have to look to Australia for very sad cases of poker machine addiction, Casinos that are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and specifically designed to keep you gambling for hours at a time. The term "socially responsible" is in complete contradiction to allowing people to develop addictions to machines that you can not win against and can not tell you when to stop and go home.
Michael McCluney, London, UK

Why are our well paid MPs wasting time and money on changing the gambling laws. This is not a change the average civilised UK person is demanding. I think the American business demands are more at fault. The lowlife need protecting as they become 'addicted' I understand. Are they not addicted to enough things already already?
Michael, Plymouth, UK

With the country in the state it's in, shouldn't politicians be concentrating on something other than gambling?
Jennifer Hynes, Plymouth, U
With the country in the state it's in, shouldn't politicians be concentrating on something other than gambling? As if we don't get ripped off enough! I have no interest in gambling at all, I don't even do the lottery, why are my elected representatives having to waste their energy on this instead of more useful and pressing matters?
Jennifer Hynes, Plymouth, UK

Smart people only bet what they can afford to lose (usually they bet nothing). The rest think they can get ahead (in defiance of logic). The lottery is a tax on small change and stupidity, it is consistent for HMG to relax some of the rules on gambling. I don't think it will do society any good though.
Phil, UK

I recently visited a casino in the south of Indiana. Casino's are a tax on the poor, most of the people I saw gambling looked like they couldn't afford to be there.
Oliver Richardson, UK in USA

Just another way most people can lose money and possibly get into financial difficulties, whilst a few people make loads of money and the Government of course can trawl more tax.
Ann, England

Gambling is a tax on stupidity, as anyone with common sense can see that the odds are always in the house's favour.
Shanti, London, England

It just shows money is king. I cannot really see any benefit in this. Why are our MPs not revolting on this domestic issue?
Mike, Ilford

The Government claim to be worried about spiralling levels of debt, then they bring this in, which will further add to the misery of thousands of families, yet will bring in millions in gambling duty. There is just one word for this: hypocrisy.
Clifford, Dartford

I'm not alone with my fears that gambling houses will attract mafia-style villainy to all corners of our once-peaceful land. Serious local authority regulation and extra policing must be in place before such establishments are allowed to open.
Patrick V. Staton, Guildford, UK

I have visited the USA on many occasions and I do take in a visit to one of the many casinos there. The chances of people walking out with a fortune are very small.

An old joke. How does one walk out of a casino with a small fortune? First, walk in with a large fortune'. I would not want to see casinos on the scale they have in the US here in the UK.
Anthony, Cardiff, Wales

The most cynical and immediate exploitation by a government of its people
Josephine Bennington, UK
Look, don't believe anything but that there will be an increase in addictive gambling. That's the way it goes. And, as the Government wants to extricate cash from the casinos by getting them to fund local projects I see this as the most cynical and immediate exploitation by a government of its people that I can think of.
Josephine Bennington, UK

Most of the population gamble in some shape or form. There is the national lottery, most of us take part in a sweepstake for the Grand National and of course the 'dream teams'. Do we stop the possible enjoyment of the majority because a minority cannot cope with responsible gambling - and I know more about it than most. Why not shut all the pubs and clubs because some people may become alcoholics? All free adults should be able to make their own choices. If an individual wishes to enter a casino then they should be able to.
Claire, Wiltshire

Oh great, yet another 'old-fashioned Victorian Law' being updated. I must remember, the next time I'm being mugged or burgled, if the perpetrator is sustaining his booze habit, his drug habit or his gambling habit. And people wonder why society is in the decline.
Kiltie, Staffs, UK

I'm a big believer in personal responsibility; I don't see any need for tight anti-gambling laws. I don't gamble but I would like people to be free to gamble, and if they get addicted, then it is their job to get un-addicted, as simple as that...
Guillermo Power, Southampton, UK

Even though I live near Epsom Downs - home of The Derby - I seldom bet. I will never visit a Casino for this purpose. What I cannot understand from what I have read is how the government intend to restrict Internet Gambling. They have not yet found a way to prevent porn on the internet so how do they think they can do any better with gambling? It seems to me that they know they can never stop this form of gambling so are simply making it easier to gamble in this country to avoid losing the tax revenue.
Terry, Epsom, Surrey, England

I simply can't understand the logic behind this.... gambling is a blight on our society, which benefits no-one apart from the big corporations running the casinos. Any monies raised in taxes will be outweighed by the increase in crime by people feeding gambling habits!
Nathan Hobbs, Luton, UK

This is just another slip of traditional values
Alex Hammett, Markyate, Hert
This is just another slip of traditional values. We have all grown up around gambling, horses, bookies, the football pools. Gambling is very much part of our history. However, the concept of huge American casinos I find to be unacceptable. Where is the organisation that is fighting to protect the image of this country? I despair - how about some more museums instead of casinos!
Alex Hammett, Markyate, Herts

When I was growing up in the Fifties, my father used to tell me never to gamble. He would say that you only had to look outside the bookmaker's shop. There you would find parked the bookie's Rolls Royce and the punters' bikes. Consequently, when it comes to gambling, I have grown up a Puritan! Why further liberate this iniquity called gambling?
Malcolm, York

I have rarely read a page of such ill-informed and pompous control freakery as this one. An evening at a casino is a great night out - no more useless and far more enjoyable than an afternoon at a shopping centre. If the worry is people spending what they don't have, why pick on casinos?
Douglas, Milton Keynes, UK

Evocative images of gambling addicts and families destroyed by gambling are very powerful, but we must remember that most gamblers are not addicts. The fact that alcoholism can break families and drink-driving can kill does not mean we ban alcohol; why then do tales of a few gambling addicts mean that we can continue to ban casinos?
Alex, UK

Having just re-mortgaged my house for 50,000 to pay off my husbands gambling debts, which I knew nothing about until January this year, I am distraught that the laws could be changed. What am I going to tell my two daughters when their father, who has no will power, is seduced by these laws and we end up with absolutely nothing. Will I have government support then? Will they give me money when I have to sell my home? Will they support me financially when I am homeless, jobless and supporting two children and a husband? Of course they won't. I'll be another statistic.

After holidaying in Australia I don't see what the problem is. I was able to spend a few dollars gambling when I wanted and didn't become an addict. I can't do that here because the laws mean that casinos tend to be dingy, seedy places. As an adult why shouldn't I be able to make the decision for myself.
Jo, UK

Hang on a minute. If people are complaining vociferously about the idea that government should interfere in people's lives over, say, fatty and fast food, what is the difference with something like this? So if something bad is already restricted it is better to leave it be, but if something bad is unrestricted then it would also be better to leave it be? How does that make any sense? If personal freedom and responsibility means anything, then it applies to everything. That includes freedoms and responsibilities of casinos as well though - if they have the freedom to operate, then they have a responsibility to attempt to prevent people becoming dependent, and pay towards the outfall.
Katherine, London, UK

Yes, reform the law and make the age limit for the national lottery, in all its forms including scratch cards, 18, as with all other forms of gambling.
Paul Bristow, Basingstoke, England

More misery for families who have a member of the family who is a gambling addict.
Bumble, Dartford, Kent

What has gambling to do with culture and how is Ms Jowell qualified to understand if and how the law needs shaking-up? Moreover, how can a shake-up that is clearly designed to encourage gambling be described as "socially responsible". This looks to me like another thinly disguised and cynical way of funding the government's expensive mistakes in other areas - like Iraq.
Chris B, Bedford, England

The whole principle behind gambling is that their systems are set so more people lose than win
Paul Sealey, Cannock, England

I do not see casinos as genuine businesses. They do not provide a service that people need. They only provide an unhealthy addiction. The whole principle behind gambling is that their systems are set so more people lose than win. Thus they are playing on people's deluded belief that they will be one of the lucky ones... This cannot be good or healthy for a society, and it's not like there is a huge protest by massive numbers of people asking for these things to be allowed, just the industry, gnashing its teeth at the gate, ready to prey on our nation. The only reason I can see for these reforms is so they can tax the hell out of it.
Paul Sealey, Cannock, England

Sounds ok - providing one could be quite certain that planning permission for casinos would always be rejected. Scrap the National Lottery whilst we're at it.
Brian, UK

93% of the public do not want to see a relaxation of gambling laws. It seems that Tony is, as always, really not listening!
Sam, London

I feel sorry for some of the wives/husbands of the new casinos customers. How many punters will be drained of all their money? It will be all to easy for gambling addicts to just try another thinking their luck will turn and end up with no money to get home. Oh, and the government will not do to bad from all this too, more tax revenue.
Steve Pennell, Burnley, UK

Gambling adds nothing to the economy, it simply redistributes wealth from the poor to the rich
Peter Judge, Brighouse, Yorks

There are two types of gambling - continuous and discrete. Discrete gambling includes bingo, raffles, the lottery, football pools, and on-course betting, and is relatively safe (especially if subject to strict cash limits on bets). Continuous gambling is more dangerous and addictive, and includes betting in betting shops (because there are far more events available on which to bet, than on-course), and playing gambling machines, roulette or cards. By definition, Casinos provide continuous gambling opportunities.

I would like to see casinos closed down (people could still play cards amongst groups of friends at home) and gambling machines (wherever they are) illegalised. It almost goes without saying that internet based gambling should, by law, be made inaccessible by UK ISP's (Internet Service Providers), Betting shops should only be allowed to take bets on a discrete number of events in one day, say a maximum of 20. Gambling adds nothing to the economy, it simply redistributes wealth from the poor to the rich.
Peter Judge, Brighouse, Yorks, UK

I welcome the removal of slot machines from cafes and shops and the tightening of rules on Internet gambling, but to allow casinos and extend the number of places people can gamble will destroy lives and encourage the already greedy nature of the citizens of this country. No-one will profit from this other than the companies involved and the politicians who have links to them.
Ian, UK

Reject any idea of reforms to the gaming laws. The proposed changes are being sponsored by USA companies such as MGM Mirage, who can see big big bucks coming their way. To ensure that the reforms go through, these companies will be plastering on some very heavy grease to certain palms and we will be given the spin, from this side of the pond, that the revenues (in taxes) will bring us untold glories, benefits and enhancements to lives, which the councils/government would otherwise would not be able to offer.

These listed benefits will never materialize once the law is reformed and mega-gambling is in full swing. The tax earned will just go into the big pot. Beware also of so-called safe-guards; these American companies are experts at fooling the people (and governments) when it comes to interpreting the rules. Look what a clean-up they made when the national lottery was first introduced. Wake up Britain.
Ray Wylde, Dorset, UK

Gambling... they want to make larger gambling centres? Make big changes to the existing law? I suppose the kick back the government gets is of no consideration at all here. The ministers' aim is purely to regulate, and help? I think not. They can't even manage the explosion in smoking related illness, drinking related violence. So I guess now we'll see more Asbos on gamblers who have lost the plot. No wonder people think the gov is crazy. Who on earth would allow more gambling at a time when the so called prospective gamblers have less money? What kind of fuzzy logic is that? Oh yeah... Labour logic... of course... all's right with the world now we know.
Mag, Kent, England

Our government is probably rubbing its hands together at the thought of all the gambling tax it is going to make. In fact that's the most likely motive for this move. Whether or not it would be harmful to our society is not something I think this government would concern itself with.
Chas Knight, Duxford, UK


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