Tories 'dug a casino hole and jumped into it', says professor

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A speaker invited to talk at a Conservative seminar on the Gambling Act has rubbished the party's line on super casinos.

The seminar was held on Thursday, with speakers including representatives from the Salvation Army and GamCare, which campaigns for responsible gambling. Professor Peter Collins, director of the University of Salford's Centre for the Study of Gambling and a former chief executive of GamCare, was also a speaker.

Apart from describing the £50bn that Hugo Swire, shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, said was spent on gambling every year in the UK as "absolute poppycock", Professor Collins also hit out at Paul Buchanan. He is the author of a report into casinos that helped form the Conservative policy but Professor Collins complained that his refusal to say how the report had been funded was "against all accepted professional academic ethics".

The Government was forced to back down over large regional casinos - dubbed super casinos - last year. The then Gambling Bill had allowed for eight super casinos but the Conservatives forced that number down to one before it was passed into law.

"I don't know anybody anywhere in the world who thinks that one is the right number," Professor Collins told The Independent on Sunday. "Some want none, others four, others 20 and so on, but no one thinks one is a good idea."

He added: "The arguments the Tories are producing are intellectually feeble. I was surprised that the Tories had dug such a big hole - and then jumped into it."

The minister for Sport, Richard Caborn, has indicated that if there is a consensus in the House of Commons, he will back increasing the number of super casinos. The Conservatives, however, are holding firm at one, despite a number of gambling experts and industry figures disagreeing with this stance.

Mr Swire last week wrote to Conservative MPs, telling them there were "hardly any details" about how the new legislation would be implemented.

"We will be reaffirming our commitment to oppose any increases in the number of regional casinos until the pilot project has been properly and thoroughly assessed," he added.