Jowell says gambling row 'has cost UK £600m and 40,000 jobs'

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The Independent Online

The UK will lose out on £600m of investment and 40,000 jobs as a consequence of a deal with the Opposition parties to cut the introduction into the UK of Las Vegas-style super-casinos to just one, Tessa Jowell claimed yesterday.

The UK will lose out on £600m of investment and 40,000 jobs as a consequence of a deal with the Opposition parties to cut the introduction into the UK of Las Vegas-style super-casinos to just one, Tessa Jowell claimed yesterday.

Ms Jowell, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, was speaking in the House of Commons on the controversial Gambling Bill, which would have been blocked by the Opposition if the Government had not backed down on this part of the measure.

Ms Jowell also hinted that Labour would seek to raise the number of developments if it is re-elected.

Her comments were enough for Las Vegas Sands, one of the US casino groups which had hoped to build casinos in cities such as Sheffield and Glasgow, to give a commitment to remain in the UK. A spokeswoman said the group was "very encouraged by the minister's words".

Ms Jowell told MPs that the Government had reluctantly agreed to back down to save the rest of the Bill, which regulates internet gambling for the first time and establishes a tougher gambling industry watchdog. "It is important for public protection that we secure this Bill. I very much regret that the opposition have made a reduction in the number of casinos in the first stage a condition of their support. Local authorities will miss out on potential benefits for regeneration. It means probably the loss of £600m of inward investment in some of the parts of the country where this investment is most needed and in excess of 40,000 jobs," she said.

Ms Jowell added: "We reserve the right to ask Parliament again what is the right number of regional casinos necessary in order to test their impact."

Blackpool is considered the most likely candidate to pilot the new casinos, which will house as many as 1,250 slot machines, but overseas gaming companies have already invested millions in acquiring land options and submitting planning applications.

The Bill is in line to receive Royal Assent today. It will allow Britain's existing 130 casinos to advertise for the first time and scraps the 24-hour cooling-off period before new customers are allowed to begin betting.

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