GAMBLING Casinos turning the tables after Lottery setback

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Casinos, bingo halls and scratchcard operators are fighting back against the National Lottery, according to figures published yesterday.

A total of pounds 2.6bn was swapped for chips in casinos in Britain last year - up 2 per cent on the year before, according to the annual report of the Gaming Board for Great Britain. Stakes in Britain's 850 bingo halls rose 7 per cent to nearly pounds 1bn and the amount of money spent on registered scratchcards and other lotteries shot up 50 per cent to pounds 115m.

Board spokesman Tom Kavanagh said: "The National Lottery undoubtedly did hit gambling, but most of the industries we deal with seem to have come through and are winning the battle."

The report says the number of lotteries organised by societies - the vast majority of them scratchcards - increased from 1,862 to 2,443, increasing ticket sales from pounds 79m to pounds 115m. However, lotteries organised by local authorities declined sharply from 47 to 18, with takings sinking to pounds 260,000 from pounds 600,000 in 1995-96.

Around 11 million people visited casinos, spending pounds 2.6bn with American roulette by far the most popular game ahead of punto banco and blackjack. The report reveals that London has 21 casinos - more than any other capital city in the world.

Of the cash spent in casinos, 80 per cent was paid out in winnings to punters, leaving around pounds 470m for operators.