jcdgb rg 4

Session 2003-04, 22 July 2004

Report Published

Report Published

The Joint Committee on the Draft Gambling Bill (Regional Casinos) publishes its report on Thursday 22nd July at 11.00 am (HL Paper 146-I, HC 843-I, Session 2003-04). A list of its conclusions and recommendations is included in this Press Notice.  The Committee is holding a press conference to launch the report.  Announcing the publication of the report John Greenway MP, Chairman of the Committee, is expected to say [check against delivery]:

"We welcome the Government's acceptance of the recommendation we made in our original report, that the biggest casinos need to be separately defined in law. Our inquiry has focussed on whether the Government has got this definition right and whether the revised proposals will succeed in meeting the Government's policy objective of limiting the number of premises with Category A machines - these are the gaming machines which have no maximum stake and which can offer players unlimited prizes.

Although the Government can claim that this aim has been met because of its decision to restrict Category A machines only to regional casinos, the Committee believes that the proposals will encourage more such casinos to be developed than is desirable. Furthermore as each regional casino will be entitled to 1,250 gaming machines, the Committee thinks it essential that the proposals be amended to avoid proliferation of such casinos.

We are equally concerned that the Government's proposals do not give sufficient emphasis to the need to secure significant regeneration benefits from the development of regional casinos. We also believe that calling these largest casinos "regional" casinos does not do justice to the concept of the biggest casinos offering an all round leisure experience which attracts gamblers and non-gamblers alike.

We therefore suggest that these largest casinos should be called "leisure destination" casinos. We believe that the minimum size threshold should be not less than 7,500m², to include a non-gambling area of at least 4,000m². We believe this recommendation will help to secure the Committee's vision for a limited number of leisure destination casinos, offering a range of entertainment, sports, arts and cultural facilities to which people would be prepared to travel.

We believe it would also limit the number of such casinos likely to be developed. Instead of as many as 40-45 leisure destination casinos which we were told in evidence could be developed under the Government's proposals, we think that our revised plans might reduce this to perhaps 20-25, though we do not set a specific target.

While we appreciate the efforts the DCMS and ODPM have made in working together to produce their Joint Statement on Casinos, we are very concerned that the policy objective of DCMS, to protect the vulnerable, which we believe should take priority, could be severely compromised by the objectives underlying the ODPM's planning policy, which favours the placing of new developments such as these in town centres. However, the Committee received professional evidence recommending that town centres, where large numbers of people live and work, are not appropriate locations for leisure destination casinos. It is regrettable at this late stage of the debate that such a policy conflict exists, and we urge both departments to work together to resolve this issue as soon as possible. I repeat our view that protecting the vulnerable, which is a core objective of the proposed new Gambling Commission, must take priority.

The Government's proposals place a great responsibility on Regional Planning Bodies to determine appropriate locations for leisure destination casinos. We think there is a strong case for national planning guidance on this specific issue, reflecting the fact that gambling premises raise different issues from other leisure and entertainment premises. We welcome the suggestion by the Planning and Housing Minister, Keith Hill MP, for the establishment of a Working Group and believe that it would be appropriate for such a group to consider the development of national guidance in this area.

 Numerous proposals for large scale casino developments are already underway and the proposals as they stand do not prevent planning conversions and the prospect of leisure destination casinos being established by the back door. There is a real risk of developments springing up before the planning system catches up. The Government must take action in this area if it is to avoid proliferation, and succeed in achieving regeneration benefits from the biggest casinos. We believe the appropriate way of doing this is to categorise leisure destination casinos as sui generis for planning purposes. We think there may also be a case for all casinos being sui generis and we welcome the Minister's willingness to have an open mind on this.

The existing industry, along with any new small and large casinos, risks being seriously, and in our view unfairly, disadvantaged by the Government's proposals. We understand the Government's cautious approach to Category A machines but through its proposals, leisure destination casinos have been given a considerable competitive advantage which has not been assessed through a competition assessment or regulatory impact assessment. We believe the Government needs to revisit the issue of gaming machine entitlements for existing casinos, and new small and large casinos, and should consider allowing them to offer higher stakes and prizes to reduce the size of the "cliff-edge" between them and leisure destination casinos.

We maintain the view expressed in our original report that new gambling legislation is necessary and urgent. While the outstanding issues must be addressed, they do not justify any delay in introducing new legislation. And although it was outside of the Committee's remit, I should add that I welcome many of the changes the Government proposes to make to the Bill in response to our original report. We urge the Government to introduce a Bill to Parliament at the earliest opportunity".

1. While further work is needed to resolve the conflicting objectives of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister we do not believe that this should delay the introduction of the Bill to Parliament. We maintain the view expressed in our original report that the legislation is necessary and urgent and urge the Department of Culture, Media and Sport and the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister to work together to resolve the outstanding issues at the earliest opportunity. (Paragraph 5)

2. We expect regional casinos to be large scale entertainment complexes offering gambling alongside a wide range of non-gambling facilities. This concept is not adequately captured by the current classification. We therefore recommend that the Department considers an alternative name for this category of casino, which more accurately conveys the nature of such developments. The Committee is minded to suggest that the term leisure destination casino more suitably describes the Government's proposals and reflects the Committee's thinking. (Paragraph 15)

3. We recommend that the minimum total customer area for regional/leisure destination casinos is increased to 7,500m². This will consist of a minimum table gaming area of 1,000m², a minimum additional gambling area of 2,500m² and a minimum non-gambling area of 4,000m². We would expect the non-gambling areas to include leisure and entertainment facilities, consistent with guidance set by the Gambling Commission. We believe that the minimum gambling area is adequate to accommodate 1,250 gaming machines; a gambling area greater than the proposed minimum does not justify increasing the cap on the number of gaming machines. We therefore do not believe it is necessary to increase the maximum number of Category A machines a regional/leisure destination casino is permitted. (Paragraph 24)

4. We believe that increasing the minimum total size for a regional/leisure destination casino will increase the size of the investment required to create such a facility, which in turn may limit the likely number of regional/leisure destination casinos to somewhere around 20 to 25. We believe that it is appropriate to have fewer regional/leisure destination casinos than has been suggested by some of the evidence we have received. (Paragraph 25)

5. We do not feel that the proposed minimum non-gambling area is large enough to accommodate suitable leisure, sports, arts and cultural facilities. As we discuss in more detail above, we recommend that the non-gambling area for regional/leisure destination casinos is increased to a minimum of 4,000m² in order to accommodate the entertainment and cultural facilities necessary to provide an overall leisure experience. (Paragraph 28)

6. We support the Government's proposals to allow children into the non-gambling area of regional/leisure destination casinos, provided that there are appropriate barriers and a suitable distance between the gambling and non-gambling areas. To do otherwise would limit the potential for regional/leisure destination casinos to develop as all-round facilities, offering entertainment and leisure facilities to those who do not wish to gamble, including families, as well as those who do. (Paragraph 33)

7. We do not believe that children should be permitted into the non-gambling areas of small and large casinos as these will be too small to offer the range of facilities available in the non-gambling area of a regional/leisure destination casino and to ensure that a suitable distance can be maintained from the gambling area. (Paragraph 34)

8. We recommend that the primary responsibility for enforcing the separation of the gambling and non-gambling area should rest with the Gambling Commission, in line with the licensing objective to protect children and the vulnerable. We expect the Commission to work with local authorities who grant premises licences and to issue guidance setting out the kinds of non-gambling areas that are suitable for children. We so recommend. (Paragraph 37)

9. We welcome the Government's commitment to carry out a national survey of gambling participation and problem gambling prior to the implementation of the Bill but recommend that additional research is carried out into Category A machines and their potential for addiction. (Paragraph 41)

10. We recommend that the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, in consultation with the Gambling Commission and the existing industry, considers an appropriate entitlement for casinos which were in operation before the 7th August 2003 (the date on which the original policy statement on casinos was published) to have a proportion of their gaming machines as Category A gaming machines. Such discussions should be informed by the outcome of the Government's revised Regulatory Impact Assessment and Competition Assessment and the agreed entitlement should be reviewed after three years, following research on the impact of Category A machines. (Paragraph 47)

11. Subject to the outcome of such research we recommend that the question of whether new small and large casinos should be entitled to have a proportion of their gaming machines as Category A machines is also reviewed. We recommend that this review should consider allowing new small and large casinos to have a proportion of their gaming machines entitlements as Category A machines if they build up a good record in respect of social responsibility over a period of, say, three years. (Paragraph 48)

12. We do not understand the logic of reducing the minimum number of gaming tables, whilst maintaining the minimum table gaming area for small and large casinos. We recommend that the Department for Culture, Media and Sport consults the industry to consider more appropriate minimum gaming table requirements, which allow the industry reasonable flexibility but which also avoid the risk of a proliferation of new very small casinos. 500m² is thought sufficient to accommodate 20 tables and 1,000m², 40 tables. These were the minimum number of tables required under the Government's previous proposals. As a large casino would need only 30 gaming tables to secure the permitted maximum of 150 gaming machines, it is unlikely that any large casinos would have as many as 40 tables. (Paragraph 49)

13. The Committee believes that there are valid competition issues arising from the significant changes to the Government's original proposals that must be given due consideration before the debate is concluded. We therefore recommend that the Department for Culture, Media and Sport undertakes full revisions of its Regulatory Impact Assessment and Competition Assessments without delay. (Paragraph 53)

14. Category A machines remain untested on the UK market. The Government's proposals for regional/leisure destination casinos to have up to 1,250 Category A machines allow for a major expansion in the number of gaming machines in the UK. Given the uncertainties about the possible impact that Category A machines may have on problem gambling we welcome the Government's cautious approach and do not believe that an increase in the maximum cap for regional/leisure destination casinos is justified. We so recommend. (Paragraph 56)

15. We welcome this provision and recommend that the Gambling Commission, in consultation with the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and the gambling industry, develop a schedule of varying stakes and prizes for Category B machines in different gambling premises. Specifically, we suggest that there is a strong case for substantially increasing the maximum stake and prize limits for Category B machines located in casinos. (Paragraph 64)

16. We recommend that the maximum number of gaming machines permitted in small and large casinos should be reviewed by the Gambling Commission three years after Royal Assent and that appropriate recommendations should be made to the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport. (Paragraph 65)

17. We strongly urge the Government to rethink its policy in this area [planning for regional/leisure destination casinos] and to pay proper regard to the evidence given to this Committee about how best to secure the Department for Culture, Media and Sport's policy objectives for casino developments which this Committee supports. (Paragraph 69)

18. While we acknowledge the Government's reluctance to publish national guidance relating specifically to regional/leisure destination casinos, we believe that it could help to ensure a consistent approach between regional authorities and avoid the need for applications to be called in for determination by the First Secretary of State. (Paragraph 75)

19. The Committee is disappointed with the lack of policy coherence in this area and has grave concerns about locating regional/leisure destination casinos in areas in close proximity to where people live and work. While we accept that planning policy is established in line with the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister's wider objectives, we believe that the overriding objective of the Government's proposals in this area should be that of controlling the access to Category A machines by limiting the number of premises that can have them and ensuring, so far as possible, that they are not located in close proximity to residential properties. (Paragraph 84)

20. While we strongly believe that regional/leisure destination casinos should be large scale leisure complexes with ancillary entertainment and cultural facilities we are concerned about the potential for regional/leisure destination casinos to develop alongside housing. Given the concerns about the impact "convenient" and "casual" gambling can have on problem gambling, we do not believe it is appropriate for regional/leisure destination casino developments to contain provision for housing. We so recommend. (Paragraph 85)

21. The Committee believes there is merit in the suggestion to make all casinos sui generis. We believe that this is particularly relevant in respect of regional/leisure destination casinos. Categorising regional/leisure destination casinos in a separate Use Class will prevent existing premises within the D2 Use Class, including other casinos below the minimum size threshold for regional/leisure destination casinos, from converting to regional/leisure destination casinos without the need for planning permission. This means that regional/leisure destination casinos would not be able to develop without achieving new planning permission and therefore meeting planning obligations. Having a separate Use Class for regional/leisure destination casinos will also help to prevent their proliferation as new developments will have to comply with the policy set out in the Regional Spatial Strategy. We therefore recommend that regional/leisure destination casinos are categorised as sui generis and that the Government consults on whether a sui generis categorisation should apply to all casinos. (Paragraph 90)

22. The Committee is concerned that the lack of clarity surrounding regeneration benefits could result in potential regeneration benefits being lost. This is a serious risk which needs to be addressed if regeneration benefits are going to be secured. We recommend that the Government reviews its approach to regeneration associated with regional/leisure destination casinos. (Paragraph 92)

23. We recommend that Gambling Commission guidance should include advice to local authorities on identifying appropriate locations for regional/leisure destination casinos and the importance of ensuring that all planning issues are properly concluded before premises licences are granted. (Paragraph 94)

24. The development of national guidance for Regional Planning Bodies, amongst other issues, could be addressed by a Working Group consisting of representatives of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, the Gambling Commission, RPBs and the industry. We therefore recommend that such a Working Group, is established at the earliest possibility with the aim of concluding a planning framework for regional/leisure destination casinos which reflects the policy objectives of protecting the vulnerable and securing regeneration benefits. (Paragraph 95)

Copies of the report

The report can be ordered from The Stationery Office (tel: 0845 702 3890/3474), or can be viewed on the Committee's website from 4.00 pm on 22 July 2004:   www.parliament.uk/parliamentary_committees/jcdgb/jcdgb_reports_and_publications.cfm

 Contacts  Interviews with the Chairman of the Committee: Sarah Fitch, 020 7219 5483 Committee secretariat (and interviews with Committee members): 020 7219 8363  The members of the Committee are: 

Chairman: John Greenway MP (Ryedale) (Conservative)
Janet Anderson MP (Rossendale & Darwen) Labour
Tony Banks MP (West Ham) Labour
Jeff Ennis MP (Barnsley East & Mexborough) Labour
Alan Meale MP (Mansfield) Labour
Richard Page MP (South West Hertfordshire) Conservative
Dr John Pugh MP (Southport) Lib Dem
Tony D. Wright MP (Great Yarmouth) Labour
Rt Hon Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville Conservative
Lord Donoughue of Ashton Labour
Lord Falkland Lib Dem
Lord Faulkner of Worcester Labour
Baroness Golding Labour
Lord Mancroft Conservative
Lord Wade of Chorlton Conservative
Lord Walpole Cross Bencher