Numbers not up for Casino - Wednesday 25th of July 2007

Culture Secretary James Purnell yesterday threw a lifeline to Baths casino bid just days after it looked to have been doomed by Gordon Brown.

He said new laws would be introduced to rescue the threatened scheme, following the decision to pull the plug on the Manchester super-casino.

The Prime Minister last week stunned MPs by saying there were better ways to regenerate struggling areas than a Las Vegas-style super-casino, with unlimited jackpots. But he did not say what would happen to another eight planned large casinos, and eight small ones, including Bath.

The Bath scheme, with a customer area of at least 750 square metres, and up to 80 Category B gaming machines with maximum jackpots of 4,000, was intended to bring millions of pounds of investment and hundreds of jobs to the city.

Now Mr Purnell has insisted there is a clear consensus across all parties that the 16 licences should go ahead.

But he will first write to all the local councils involved, including Bath and North East Somerset, and also Torbay which has backed a scheme, to check they still want a casino. Since the licences were awarded in January, political control of some councils had changed, or key councillors had switched portfolios, he said.

Mr Purnell said they would wait for a study on problem gambling before making a decision on the super-casino.

Liberal Democrat culture spokesman Don Foster, Bath MP, said: "The Government are in complete disarray over this issue. Having spent months ignoring those of us who expressed concern about this policy, were now seeing a complete U-turn.

Local councils were encouraged to apply for these licences, spent a huge amount of money during the bid process, and could now be left high and dry.

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