Tuesday, 6 May 2008

Labour Government letting down seaside towns – Giles McNeill

Concern raised over effect of unfair new gambling laws on arcades and bingo halls

Giles McNeill criticised Labour Ministers and Labour MPs today for failing to protect the interests of seaside towns. They are at risk as a result of newly-introduced gambling laws. Conservatives are warning that a green light has been given to hard-core gambling, while safer forms of entertainment are being harshly treated.

Seaside arcades, bingo halls and high street arcades are seeing a collapse in their income. New laws have reduced gaming machine stakes and the number of machines that these arcades can have. At the same time, the Government has failed to tackle the rise in problem gambling from betting offices as a result of controversial new ‘fixed odds betting terminals’ and of online gambling.

· The Government’s latest Gambling Prevalence Survey showed that gaming arcades have just a 3 per cent problem gambling rate, compared with an 11 per cent rate in licensed betting offices. But many people are now transferring to gaming machines in betting shops, putting them at a greater risk of gambling addiction.
· Gaming arcade businesses are often family-owned – passed down from generation to generation and are the lifeblood of many seaside economies which rely heavily on tourism.
· The British Amusement Catering Trade Association has described the impact of the Gambling Act on the industry as “devastating”, warning that “at this rate half the industry will be gone in six months.” It has estimated that there has already been a 21 per cent fall in revenues year on year, in an industry that directly employs 26,000 people. In the bingo industry, over 80 clubs have already closed in the last three years and 108 are under threat.
· A move in Parliament by Conservatives to change the law to tackle this unfairness was rejected by Labour Ministers and Labour MPs – even though a number of Labour MPs supported a cross-party Commons motion to change the laws.

Giles McNeill said:
“Labour is letting down our local community and its economy. Many of these arcades are part of our historic seaside heritage. This is no way in which to treat the local firms that are so vital to seaside communities. A green light has been given to hard-core gambling, while safer forms of entertainment are being unfairly treated.”