Take it or leave it for Gambling Bill - Tuesday 12th of April 2005

The government has issued a "take it or leave it" ultimatum to the House of Commons in a bid to effectively wash its hands of the Gambling Bill.The statement largely reinforces the Government???s position on various issues of debate within the bill, but fails to address the furore surrounding the cap on casino expansion, or address the concerns of high street bookmakers regarding betting exchanges.

Concerns voiced by remote gambling operators, too, seem to have been ignored, with the statement referring only to existing clauses and amendments, or delegating responsibility to the Gambling Commission.

The statement, then, leaves the bill on something of a knife-edge. When originally published in late 2003, it was largely welcomed by the casino and remote gambling industries, although both had caveats.

On the other hand, it drew concerns from the bingo, arcade and bookmaking sectors. Now, it would appear, it is virtually welcomed by no one.

With Tony Blair expected to dissolve parliament tomorrow in order for a general election, the bill will now have to pass through a committee stage in the Commons before progressing to the Lords, where it may still be rejected.

The Conservatives now seem to hold the upper hand, as it is their opposition which could block the bill. With no concessions tabled it is unlikely that Michael Howard will cow-tow to Labour and will instead take the moral high-ground as the man that prevented an "explosion of gambling" on UK shores.

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