Go-ahead for casino - Saturday 30th of May 2009

Plans for a casino in Bath have come a step closer after politicians voted in favour of cracking on with the licensing process for the hotly-debated venture.

Bath and North East Somerset councillors agreed that local authority officials should start the ball rolling for the procedures required by the Gambling Act.

The city is one of several areas where the Government has agreed to the principle of a new casino, and a number of operators have contacted B&NES to discuss the issue.

At a meeting last week, the issue was put to a named vote, where councillors were asked individually to register their opinion.

This saw plans to move on with the licensing process supported, with 34 votes in favour, 22 against and six abstentions.

The concept has concerned some church-goers and a statement on behalf of Bath City Church senior leader Stewart Keiller was read to the meeting.

It said: "As a pastoral leader I see the devastating effects that all forms of addictions play in peoples lives.

"Alcohol, drugs and of course gambling not only affect an individuals life but also the lives of their partners and children.

"Of course how someone chooses to live their life is their affair, but dont we have a duty to protect innocent people who have to bear the price for a loved ones mistakes?"

His concerns were supported by Cllr David Speirs (Lab, Paulton), who said: "I have seen first hand the effects excess gambling and drinking can have, I believe it will destroy families.

"People do not come here to gamble, a casino is not necessary."

However a number of councillors disagreed, saying that a casino would be an added attraction to the city, which already depends heavily on tourism.

The council forecasts that a casino would create 200 jobs and give Baths economy a £7 million annual boost.

Cllr Chris Cray (Ind, Westfield) said that people should be allowed to chose for themselves where they spend their time.

He said: "We are not in the business of telling people what they can and cant do.

"They must have a choice, and be responsible for their actions, so as much as we want, we cannot protect every single person.

"I think the casino should be given the go-ahead, and people should be given the opportunity to decide for themselves."

Six possible city centre sites have been identified.

They are Green Park Station; Western Riverside East, near Homebase; Saw Close; the Podium and former cattle market site; Manvers Street/South Parade; and Terrace Walk and the Empire Undercroft, by Parade Gardens.

Work will now start on developing criteria for a casino licence.

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