Casino fiasco set to drag

Despite the massive setback to the governments casino plans in the House of Lords on Wednesday, plans for the new super-casino in Manchester are still “very much alive”, according to the culture secretary Tessa Jowell.

However, no new plans will be revealed by the government on how they will now progress with the proposals until May 3rd; after the Scottish, Welsh and English local elections. This gives Tessa Jowell a small window of opportunity to find a new way of pushing the legislation through but that time period may well prove too small.

One way she could possibly do this would be to separate the super-casino from the remaining 16 smaller casinos which are unlikely to receive much objection, even in the House of Lords. However, this strategy could well put Manchester’s super-casino under intense pressure from the much-fancied and supported choice of Blackpool and open up a complete new debate. That would be something the government would certainly want to avoid having stated before Wednesdays vote that the location of the new casinos could not be altered.

With Gordon Brown poised to take over the reigns from Tony Blair after the local elections, the casino plans could possibly be cast with more doubt. Although Gordon Brown had rallied his Labour colleagues to vote for the casino plans on Wednesday, it is thought his attitude will change once in power. If his budget last week is anything to go by, after setting the highest taxes expected for the casino industry, the arrival of Brown in power could complicate matters even further.

Add to this that Brown may then reshuffle his Labour backbenchers, appointing a new culture secretary in the process, and it seems as though the whole situation could drag on much longer than anyone ever thought.

Following the setback, Tony Blair was cutting in his criticism of those that voted against the order, saying: "I hope the people who voted against it understand they are not going to stop anyone betting, they are just going to stop hundreds of millions of pounds worth of investment."

The House of Lords received more criticism from The House of Commons as one Cabinet Minster told The Times: “The Lords will pay for this. They have defied the will of the elected chamber and this shows they are not just a revising house. As the Lords reforms go through, we will have to look very carefully at their powers to ensure the Commons maintains primacy.”

One thing seems certain. With people on both sides of the fence equally adamant and fervent in their views, the fate of Manchester’s super-casino could, in effect, rest on the turn of a card.

Editor, - 2007-03-30 11:28:57

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