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Last Updated: Tuesday, 30 January 2007, 18:42 GMT
Super-casino: Bonanza for gangs?
By Alex Kleiderman
BBC News

Manchester super-casino site
The casino will be part of a new leisure park

Will the first UK super-casino in Manchester provide a bonanza for the street gangs blamed for shootings in the city in recent years?

Opponents of the casino, part of a 265m SportCity leisure development in Beswick, fear there will be an increase in muggings around the site and say it could inspire gangs to move into prostitution, money laundering and extortion.

The fears have been rejected by police and commentators, while the consortium behind the bid say it will regenerate one of the most deprived areas of the country.

Manchester City Council said it would ensure the casino's construction prevents both crime and anti social behaviour taking place with "secure parking and required levels of lighting and monitoring".

Turf battles

Pete Walsh, author of Gang War, a book about the Manchester turf battles, said the city's gangs were mainly focused on drug dealing.

"We're not talking about major racketeers," he said.

There is evidence the gangs have been involved in nightclub security in the past.

The scrutiny on this will be enormous and no organised criminal likes scrutiny
Pete Walsh

But Mr Walsh said regulations on door staff have been tightened up and a casino run by a huge multi-national is on a "different level".

Laws introduced in 1967 during a clampdown on casinos infiltrated by organised crime were relaxed in 2004 to allow easier advertising and membership.

Strict requirements in the new Gambling Act ensure the running of casinos continue to remain above board.

Mr Walsh said: "People often make the connection between casinos and organised crime because of the genesis of Las Vegas but Vegas was a complete one-off and the situation is often misunderstood.

"By and large the gangs in Manchester are not multi-millionaire businessmen."

As for money laundering, Mr Walsh said: "There will be so much focus on this casino - the scrutiny on this will be enormous and no organised criminal likes scrutiny."

'Important test'

The Casino Advisory Panel, which recommended the Manchester bid, maintains legislation in the Gambling Act, together with police enforcement, will provide sufficient protection from organised crime.

Roulette wheel
The CAP does not feel organised crime is an issue

"The association in the minds of many between casinos and crime led us to examine whether, in the areas of the proposals before us, there were any special local considerations that we should pay attention to," it said.

"Evidence in every instance was that they (police) expected no special problems; indeed, in the areas of organised crime, prostitution, and money laundering they all indicated that through research and intelligence gathering, they could keep on top of potential problems in collaboration with the licensing authorities."

Greater Manchester Police Chief Constable Michael Todd acknowledged the SportCity site "would be an important test of the whole concept of a super-casino".

He said: "While the sheer number of people who will be attracted to the casino will inevitably create a policing challenge for us, I am confident that we have the expertise and resources to deal with this."

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