Clause 1 - The licensing objectives

Part of Gambling Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 10:15 am on 9th November 2004.

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Photo of Malcolm Moss Malcolm Moss Shadow Minister, Home Affairs 10:15 am, 9th November 2004

Yes to all those questions. The hon. Gentleman makes a good point: if we want to establish a level playing field, there must be equal opportunities for all. As he well knows, under the Bill category A machines will go only into regional casinos. Existing casinos, whether large or small, will not have access to them. He is right in saying that the machines will deliver the profits, not the gaming tables.

Our view is that there should be equalisation somewhere, and we will come to that later. We do not have a fixed view that there should be x number of machines here, there or wherever, but existing casinos—probably just the large ones, not the small ones—should have access to category A machines in limited numbers. Alternatively, the stake payout could be increased for category B machines, which currently have a limit of £2,000. It is incredible that the Government are saying that someone on a modest income could wander into one of these new regional casinos and gamble away on category A machines. The one in east Manchester, if it gets built, will be on one of the most run-down housing estates in the city.

There is nothing wrong with that, although there is evidence to suggest that a great temptation will be placed in people's way and they may gamble more than they expected to. But compare that with the member of the London club casino that I went to last week: he was gambling huge amounts of money on the blackjack table. The Government say that he can do that, but he cannot spend more than £1 in a category B machine; it is fatuous. A sensible playing field needs to be established. We would like to see it set out in clause 1, under objectives, that the gambling commission must seek a fair and level playing field.