Hurst votes against Gambling Bill

By Graham DinesPolitical EditorA LABOUR MP who voted against Government plans for American-style super casinos says he is unconvinced with Government arguments that local communities will be protected by closing planning loopholes.

A LABOUR MP who voted against Government plans for American-style super casinos says he is unconvinced with Government arguments that local communities will be protected by closing planning loopholes.

Alan Hurst, MP for Braintree, was one of 29 Labour members who voted with the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats against the Second Reading of the Gambling Bill, in the House of Commons late on Monday night.

"I do not want our town centres turned into a version of Las Vegas with huge casinos - in fact I am opposed to even one opening anywhere in Britain," said Mr Hurst.

"They are a far cry from bingo and a flutter on the horses. I fear such casinos will become addictive and lead to all sorts of social problems."


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He said Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell had tried to convince him that local councils would have the power to reject applications for casinos. Her minor 11th hour concession to the Bill's critics was an obligation on councils to consult local people over whether to have a super-casino in their area.

Action would also be taken to prevent casinos getting planning permission "through the back door" by closing a loophole in the rules. "There will be no new casinos if local people don't want new casinos."

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Mr Hurst rejected this argument. "The reality is that if a massive regeneration scheme is put forward by a developer, and the plans include a casino, the town hall will be under enormous pressure to give the go-ahead."

Tory spokesman John Whittingdale, MP for Maldon and Chelmsford East, said the Bill was "fatally flawed" in a number of respects and there was a danger it would lead to an increase in gambling addiction.

He said later: "What the Government is proposing to do is to introduce a whole new kind of casino never seen before in this country. Its proposals open the door to a very large number coming right into the hearts of our towns and cities. We think that is very unwise."

After the Bill was given a second reading by 286 votes to 212, Bury St Edmunds Tory MP David Ruffley said he would discuss the implications of the Bill with Church leaders in his constituency on Friday.

"Huge concern has been expressed to me by my constituents who are horrified at the thought of Las Vegas style casinos being built all around the country.

"I certainly do not want to see the relaxation of access to gambling venues in my constituency. I am appalled that the Government is introducing such a Bill and I will oppose it at every stage."

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