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Tuesday, 26 March, 2002, 12:42 GMT
Blackpool's casino dilemma
Luxor Hotel, Las Vegas
Huge casino complexes could take shape in Blackpool
Britain's biggest seaside resort has mixed feelings about becoming the Las Vegas of the UK.

While business leaders and leisure bosses in Blackpool are eager to embrace plans for casino hotels and 1m bandit machine jackpots, religious and anti-gambling organisations are urging caution.

Peter Moore, chairman of the Blackpool regeneration working group and former managing director of leisure group Center Parcs, says gambling deregulation is great news for the town.

But the Reverand Michael Fielding of the Blackpool Coalition Against Gaming Expansion fears an increase in social deprivation.

Las Vegas
Las Vegas has hundreds of hotel casinos

Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell has revealed proposals allowing giant casino complexes and lavish ammusement arcades all over the country.

Laws last changed in 1967 during a clampdown on casinos infiltrated by organised crime have been relaxed to allow easier advertising and membership.

Lancashire entertainment firm Leisure Parcs already has plans for its own five-star hotel casinos.

Mr Moore said: "It is great news for Blackpool as part of its aspirations to become the country's premier destination resort.

"Las Vegas-style casino hotels are a powerful catalyst for regeneration and bring a number of undoubted benefits.

"This is a significant time for this famous resort and heralds a new era for Blackpool.

This quantum leap in gambling opportunity will inevitably bring in people who will become casualties, lose a lot of money and end up on the streets

The Reverend Michael Fielding, Blackpool Coalition Against Gaming Expansion

"Comfortable, modern, well-equipped accommodation, exciting entertainment, shopping and food experiences, accessed through visually appealing, pleasurable, weather-proofed, street environments with landscaped squares.

"There is no doubt resort casino hotels will provide a powerful presence and are totally appropriate."

But Mr Fielding, one of the founder members of the Blackpool Coalition Against Gaming Expansion, said: "It is a tough town with all kinds of drug problems and a lot of alcohol abuse and poverty.

"This quantum leap in gambling opportunity will inevitably bring in people who will become casualties, lose a lot of money, and end up on the streets."

Ms Jowell has announced the formation of a gambling commission to oversee the revamped gaming industry.

Mr Fielding said: "The plans will bring people into Blackpool to visit casinos, but they will stay there. The doors will not be locked but there will be every conceivable attraction to keep them in.

More gambling

"There will be theatres, creches, restaurants and bars, they will win and lose the money within the walls of the casino.

"The government is determined to implement this.

"Big business will reap the benefits, but there are four casinos in Blackpool already and no-one has demonstrated there is a demand for more gambling.

"Blackpool has to regain the heart it had when it was a true family resort."

Click here to go to Lancashire
See also:

26 Mar 02 | UK Politics
UK poised for 'Las Vegas' casinos
10 Jan 02 | England
Blackpool bids for casino culture
17 Jul 01 | Business
Blackpool: The new Las Vegas?
05 Apr 01 | UK Politics
Gambling laws 'set for overhaul'
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