Hoey joins growing list of rebels and describes Bill as 'ga-ga'

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Kate Hoey, the former sports minister, joined a growing group of Labour rebels last night which will vote against the Government's bill to allow Las Vegas-style casinos in towns across Britain.

Kate Hoey, the former sports minister, joined a growing group of Labour rebels last night which will vote against the Government's bill to allow Las Vegas-style casinos in towns across Britain.

Ms Hoey said: "Why do we need all these casinos? It seems crazy. I am going to vote against it. The whole deregulation proposal would have to be taken out before I would vote for it. Sports clubs will lose their slot machines. It's ga-ga." Ms Hoey has told friends that she believed it was "stupid" of the Culture Secretary, Tessa Jowell, to say at the weekend that opponents of the legislation were influenced by "snobbery".

The Government whips have started sounding out Labour MPs to count the number of rebels. One minister said: "They are doing a head count and it looks pretty grim. They won't lose the Bill, but there will have to be concessions." The rebels are demanding that the Government drops the proposal to allow a new breed of "mega-casinos" to be created from the Gambling Bill.

Most members of the Labour left-wing Campaign Group of MPs are threatening to vote against the Bill's second reading on Monday. "We don't want the crime associated with the casinos and we know that the only pressure for this is coming from the big gambling companies in the US," said a member of the group. A former cabinet minister has also indicated he will vote against the measure along with the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats.

One left-winger said: "It will be a sizeable revolt. A lot of Labour MPs just don't see the need for this. It is a self-inflicted wound."

More MPs signed the Commons motion tabled by Frank Field, the former minister, last night calling for pilot schemes before towns are given the freedom to grant planning permission to the new brand of casino. Some MPs are also calling for an upper limit on the number of new casinos across the country to be written into the Bill. The gambling industry estimates that between 20 and 40 new large-scale casinos will be created. The Bill will require them to be of at least 7,500 square metres, and with a substantial part set aside for gaming tables in addition to slot machines. But MPs are concerned that casinos could become a feature of many towns, encouraging poorer punters to get deeper into debt.

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