Monday, November 01, 2004

Having a bit of a flutter

We're all in a bit of a flutter over the Gambling Bill. Had originally intended trying to speak until I realised that the chances of being called were slim anthat others would be raising the points I wanted to raise.
Itis rarely that I agree with the Daily Mail but in the case of the Gambling Bill I think they have a point. I have read around the subject and it seems clear to me that relaxation of the gambling laws in places such as Australia have resulted in an increase in the number of people who have become heavily addicted to gambling - with all the consequences.

The post bag has been interesting. Initially a lot of people echoing my concerns but a late flurry of e-mails and letters from publicans etc who cannot see the justification for a heavy handed approach to gaming machines in pubs.
The latter may have been vested interests but made me ask whether the reasoning behind this bill was at all joined up. Let me put it this way. On the one hand we have a Government who are saying that gambling is "a bad thing" and trying to regulate where gaming machines can be. On the otherhand they appear to be saying that these machines are perfectly OK if clustered together in large outlets and bigger (more addictive?) prizes are offered.
It may be a classic case of "doublethink" but the reality is this - there are many areas of the country where the provision of a casino will provide jobs and also be the mechanism by which other local amenities can be subsidised. There are some very seductive proposals in the offices of a local council near you. If you don't believe me just take stock of the number of Northern LAbour MPs who stood to speak in support of this bill.
Neither am I fooled by Tessa Jowell's supposed climb down. It seems to me that the saying that "no one will be forced to have a casino they don't want" can be translated as "let those areas where there is a lot to be gained go ahead - and never mind the consequences"