The british government is set to back down on plans to allow casinos to open on the country’s high streets. New rules will prevent venues from opening all but the largest premises. The policy change comes just four months after Labour announced proposals for sweeping liberalisation of the industry. These included relaxing restrictions on opening of new casinos and plans to allow betting shops to become “multi-faceted”, encompassing gaming tables, fruit machines and card tables, as well as traditional sports betting.
But ministers are considering watering down the reforms after MPs complained that they would fuel the habits of problem gamblers.
It is understood that when parliament returns after the summer recess, ministers at the Department of Culture, Media & Sport will look to change plans that would have allowed any bookmaker with 2000sq ft of floor space to become a casino. Instead, they are likely to settle on a figure nearer 10,000sq ft. This will make it more difficult to open casinos in high streets, leaving out-of-town multi-purpose gambling centres to dominate.
Welfare groups, such as Gamcare, which deals with gambling addicts, says serious gamblers will still make the journey to an out-of-town casino, but the change will stop casual punters from walking in off the high street, preventing more people from becoming hooked.
The new Gaming Act is now almost certain to be included in the Queen’s Speech in October 2003, with the first legislative changes expected to come into effect in 2004. The government has already relaxed some rules which do not require legislation. This week, live entertainment will be permitted in UK UFABet casinos for the first time, while food and non-alcoholic drinks can now be sold in betting shops.
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