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Tuesday, 26 March, 2002, 18:13 GMT
'Why I escaped gambling'
Alcohol will be served on the gaming floor
Casinos will be allowed to have live entertainment
'Jeff', 25, from London, is a reformed gambler and now a successful businessman in IT. He tells BBC News Online why he disagrees with the government plans.

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 which robs them of their money, their hope and their dignity.

I don't disagree that casinos will go some way to helping regenerate these seaside towns, but at what cost?

Alcohol is undoubtedly the gambling industry's favourite partner

They will provide a certain number of low-paid jobs such as bouncers, croupiers, till workers, etc.

They will create a whole new generation of gambling addicts, broken families, alcoholics and crippling debt.

Is this ever seen on the balance sheet when these facilities are being proposed by the rich gambling lobby and their friends in the local councils or government? I doubt it.

The dangers of gambling probably are exaggerated by the moral minority (most of whom probably haven't laid a bet in their life) but it seems equally that the gambling lobby has had too much of their own way recently.

They are trying to paint casinos as these glamorous, exciting venues that are very much a lifestyle choice.

'Glamour'

I'm not going to say that all people going to casinos will end up in the gutter - for many people, it will be just a fun night out.

But for a significant minority, that fun night out will become a dark and dangerous addiction.

And let us make no mistake, it is from those specific people who the casinos make the majority of their money.

The flashing lights, the "glamour", the meals and the drinks are all a marketing exercise to get people hooked.

I would return home after daybreak for weeks on end because I would lose track of time

Many will still remember the days when smoking cigarettes was advertised as a glamorous, healthy choice.

How our views have changed.

Once, I hid just enough for a taxi fare in my sock, then after losing over 1,000, gambled my fare away too and had to walk three miles home at 4am in the morning.

I used to go to casinos so drunk after a night out that I couldn't remember whether I had been or not.

'Clock ban'

I had to check whether I had any winnings in my room or check my bank statements for what I had lost.

Alcohol is undoubtedly the gambling industry's favourite partner.

I used to "go missing" for 48 hours and my friends would find me walking back home from the casino in the morning.

I would return home after daybreak for weeks on end because I would lose track of time.

The government is going too far along the road of prostituting the most vulnerable in this country

The casinos do not allow clocks in their building and ban all of their staff from wearing watches in case a punter asks for the time.

There is no doubt that for the casino owners and the taxman it is very lucrative.

The government is going too far along the road of prostituting the most vulnerable in this country, first with the National Lottery, then with this.

Both of these are far more compulsive than visiting the odd bookie -I used to do that too, but it could never be as addictive as the "allure" of the casino.

See also:

05 Apr 02 | UK Politics
Betting reforms a gamble
26 Mar 02 | England
Blackpool's casino dilemma
26 Mar 02 | UK
Blackpool: Bank or bust?
26 Mar 02 | UK
Are casinos the new pubs?
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