Parliament limits casino expansion

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The Independent Online

Plans for Las Vegas-style casinos all over Britain were reined in yesterday by MPs and Lords who are worried by the possibility of too many such resorts being built in the UK.

Plans for Las Vegas-style casinos all over Britain were reined in yesterday by MPs and Lords who are worried by the possibility of too many such resorts being built in the UK.

The Joint Scrutiny Committee that has been set up to examine the implications of the Gambling Bill yesterday recommended an increase in the minimum size of a resort and also recommended that more additional leisure facilities are built alongside gambling.

The committee believes that increasing resorts' size will limit their number to 20-25 across the UK, rather than 40-45, and that larger complexes will offer a wider range of leisure facilities which will have a regenerative effect on local communities.

US and South African casino groups have been lining up to invest heavily in the UK to develop "regional" casinos.

The committee yesterday said regional casinos should be a minimum of 7,500 square metres, compared with the 5,000 currently proposed. Of this, 4,000 square metres should be non-gambling facilities such as swimming pools, restaurants, cinemas or bowling alleys.

Sun International said it welcomed the proposals and would continue with its plans to invest. Paul Thomas, of KPMG, which has advised both incoming operators and regional planning authorities, said the proposals would not deter Las Vegas operators from coming to Britain.

But in a move to appease UK casino operators such as Rank, Stanley Leisure and London Clubs International, the committee said the Government should consider allowing unlimited jackpot slot machines in their casinos. The Government wants only regional casinos to have slot machines with unlimited prizes. Existing operators believe this gives incoming competitors an unfair advantage.

John Kelly, managing director of Gala Group, which has signed up with the US casino group Harrah's, was also pleased. "I am pleased that the committee has balanced protecting the vulnerable with controlling proliferation," he said.

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