World leaders are locked in a seemingly endless round of summits to solve the global economic crisis. Back home ministers are busy playing down their influence and briefing that they don’t have all the answers to our financial woes. One thing is clear to everyone in government: If Britain is to drag itself out of the economic mire, the private sector will have to be at the forefront of the recovery. It is increasingly difficult to see where that drive is going to come from. However, there is one industry that is ready to play its part and contribute to the growth agenda. A recent study for the National Casino Industry Forum forecast that modest reforms of Britain’s outdated gambling laws could generate up to 5,000 new jobs and an extra £70-80 million in additional taxes. We are not talking about a return to Labour’s plans for a regional super casino that sparked a media frenzy in 2005. These are modest, sensible reforms to modernise an important and legitimate industry and free it up to create more jobs.
The first reform is tied to the localism agenda David Cameron insists he is so passionate about. Currently casinos are only allowed in certain areas of the country which are based on out-of-date population sizes. If the PM really is committed to localism, shouldn’t he let local councils decide for themselves if they want to be a permitted area? A licence which has formerly operated and is not being used should be able to be moved to an area that wants a casino and the associated investment and jobs. We are not talking about a free-for-all or having casinos in every town in Britain. This reform would not increase the number of casinos allowed. But it seems crazy to cluster 186 casinos in just 53 areas.
Another change would be to create a level playing field. Different casinos have different numbers of machines depending upon which Act they were built under. This creates confusion for customers. The same rules should apply across the board. Customers would then know exactly what to expect from a British casino.