Gambling industry to grow after shake-up

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The Independent Online

The gambling industry could grow by more than £3bn after a shake-up of the archaic rules controlling betting, to be unveiled tomorrow.

The gambling industry could grow by more than £3bn after a shake-up of the archaic rules controlling betting, to be unveiled tomorrow.

Ministers will give the go-ahead for the controls on gaming to be eased, paving the way for a boom in numbers of casinos and allowing bingo halls to create instant millionaires.

The moves, to be announced by Tessa Jowell, the Secretary of State for Culture, are expected to boost the turnover of the £7bn-a-year industry by 50 per cent.

Planning rules on where casinos can be opened will be relaxed, leading to an expected increase from 118 casinos to about 200. In an attempt to reverse declining visitor numbers, Blackpool plans to relaunch itself as the British answer to Las Vegas. Other resorts, including Southend and Bournemouth, are considering whether to follow suit. Casinos will also be allowed to advertise, and the 24-hour waiting time between becoming a member and being admitted will be scrapped.

The Government will allow bingo halls to double their top jackpot prizes to £1m.

Restrictions on betting shops will be eased slightly, allowing them to have fruit machines with bigger jackpots and to stay open longer. Consumers will get legal rights to prosecute bookmakers who refuse to hand over winnings.

However, ministers have ruled out allowing betting in public houses. They are also understood to have forbidden placing fruit machines in areas where children have access.

The package, to be phased in over two years, is based on a review of Britain's complex gaming rules by Sir Alan Budd, who called for a mixture of liberalisation and tougher scrutiny of the industry.

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