Government forced into compromise over US-style super-casinos

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Indy Politics

The number of American-style super-casinos may be cut in a last-minute compromise to stop the Gambling Bill being lost because of lack of parliamentary time.

The number of American-style super-casinos may be cut in a last-minute compromise to stop the Gambling Bill being lost because of lack of parliamentary time.

In 11th-hour horse-trading before the election is called, the Government conceded it may be forced to compromise over its casino Bill to get it through.

Yesterday all three parties were engaged in frantic last-minute negotiations over Bills that are at risk from falling because of a lack of parliamentary time.

The Government's plan for ID cards looks set to fail as the Tories and Liberal Democrats indicated they would not allow the "flawed" Bill through.

Tony Blair's decision to postpone the election announcement has put at risk key legislation as it cuts a full day off parliamentary time left for passing last-minute Bills.

No deal had yet been struck by yesterday over the controversial Gambling Bill, which includes plans to allow American-style super-casinos to be opened in Britain. The Tories are insisting that the Government reduce the number of such casinos to four, and allow smaller British casinos to have more slot machines.

The Liberal Democrats are also demanding compromises to protect the British casino industry before they will allow the Bill to go through.

The Government wants to keep the Bill intact but it has privately acknowledged it may be forced to compromise the current plan to allow eight super-casinos in Britain with hundreds of slot machines.

The plans for the Las Vegas-style establishments have been sharply opposed by MPs from all parties, including Labour backbenchers who have warned they could increase gambling addiction.

The Tories have demanded that there be only four super-casinos in Britain instead of eight as planned.

Ministers have indicated that this demand will create severe problems for regions that are relying on the casinos to regenerate run-down areas.

But yesterday government sources were indicating they were in the mood to compromise - although not to the extent that it emasculates the Bill. Ministers are also privately conceding that the proposal to make it a crime to commit or incite religious hatred stands no chance of getting through in the last few days before the election is called.

Lord Strathclyde, the Tory leader in the Lords, said the ID card Bill, which had been "rushed through the Commons at breakneck speed" stood little chance of becoming law. But he indicated the Tories could strike a deal on other Bills.

"Certain Bills that have cross-party agreement that are regarded as being important to the nation we will co-operate as much as possible," he said on Radio 4's Today programme. "But more difficult Bills the Government would expect them to fall by the wayside."

Other Bills that are expected to fall because of lack of time include the Neighbourhoods and Environment Bill, which creates new powers to tackle dog fouling, litter, abandoned cars and fly posting. MPs have had little time to scrutinise this Bill.

The Child Benefit Bill, which extends weekly payments to families with children aged 16 to 19 who are at school or college, is likely to get through.

The Constitutional Reform Bill, which introduces judicial reforms, including the creation of a supreme court, is expected to go ahead if the Government does not try to overturn defeats in the Lords over the role of the Lord Chancellor.

THE BILLS AT STAKE

ID CARDS BILL

Introduces compulsory ID cards and a national database that includes iris scans and face recognition.

Prognosis Dead. Tories and Lib Dems accuse the Government of trying to rush through the plans.

GAMBLING BILL

Introduces regulations for gambling and changes law to allow super-casinos.

Prognosis On a knife-edge. Government will have to compromise for success.

OUTLAWING RELIGIOUS HATRED

The proposal will make it a crime to commit or incite religious hatred.

Prognosis Poor. It threatens the Serious and Organised Crime Bill, which establishes a national police force.

CHILD BENEFIT BILL

Extends weekly payments to children aged 16 to 19 still at school, or in college.

Prognosis Very good. Likely to be nodded through.

DRUGS BILL

Bans magic mushroom trade and introduces compulsory treatment for those who test positive for drugs.

Prognosis Not hopeful, through lack of time.

CONSTITUTIONAL REFORM BILL

Introduces judicial reforms, including a supreme court.

Prognosis Depends on government accepting Lords' defeats over Lord Chancellor.

NEIGHBOURHOODS AND ENVIRONMENT BILL

Gives councils powers to tackle dog-fouling, graffiti, litter and abandoned cars.

Prognosis Little debate and scrutiny but could work if Tories and Lib Dems do deal.

MERGER OF INLAND REVENUE AND CUSTOMS AND EXCISE

Creates single department and saves cash.

Prognosis Good.

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