Casino plans thwarted by Lords

Plans for Britain’s first super-casino were scuppered yesterday after the House of Lords dealt a devastating blow to the government and Tessa Jowell by rejecting a government order for only the third time since the Second World War.

The House of Lords voted 123 to 120 against the order put forward by the government, backing an amendment by Liberal Democrat Lord Clement-Jones which called for a joint committee of the Lords and Commons to examine the decision-making process. That outcome rendered the 274 to 270 votes in favour of the proposals in the House of Commons worthless.

Tessa Jowell, the culture secretary, had gambled by putting the order to both houses of parliament and must now reassess her strategy on how best to push the new legislation through.

"Ministers will want to reflect and come back to this elected house (The House of Commons) in due course with proposals as to how to take this policy forward," said Ms Jowell.

It was one gamble too many by Ms Jowell, who had previously taken the risk of placing all the casinos in one order.

The shock defeat will come as a huge blow to Manchester and could jeopardise the possibility of it ever getting a super-casino, leaving Angie Robinson, chief executive of the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce, disillusioned.

"This is complete madness and we are bitterly disappointed at this absolutely outrageous decision," she said.

"The super-casino would have brought much-needed jobs and investment to one of the most deprived areas in the country.”

Ms Jowell has previously admitted that is the proposals were rejected, there could be “no Plan B quickly”.

The reason for this is that Ms Jowell cannot bring back the same order for six months and bringing back the order, in its same form, would be foolhardy. Therefore, MP’s have suggested that the order be separated, with each new casino location analysed on its own merits.

However, if that were to happen it would only heighten the scrutiny that Manchester, the recommended choice of the Casino Advisory Panel (CAP), would be under. That recommendation has been widely criticised by many MP’s who believe Blackpool would have been a more appropriate choice.

Nevertheless, Ms Jowell has stated that Manchester’s super-casino licence will not be rescinded and that it will look further at the case for Blackpool to host an additional super-casino in the next parliament.

The chances of that, however, seem slim if the prime minister-in-waiting, Gordon Brown, has anything to do with it. He slapped a 50% tax on any potential super-casino in last weeks budget and is thought to be strongly opposed to the new generation of casinos.

Despite the setback to the proposals, Richard Caborn has said that the remaining 16 casinos in the order “could well go ahead tomorrow” as long as they received the support of opposition parties although he stopped short of detailing any short term plans.

Editor, - 2007-03-29 11:38:16

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