Socialist Worker

Labour’s casinos gamble with people’s lives

Plans to introduce a new ‘super casino’ into the Ibrox area of Glasgow can only increase problems for the poorest in society. Kelly Hilditch investigates

Issue No. 1971

One of the poorest communities in Britain is one step closer to getting a super casino thanks to New Labour’s relaxation of the gambling laws.

Rangers Football Club have been granted planning permission by Glasgow city council for a £120 million casino and hotel complex beside their Ibrox ground in Glasgow.

David Murray, the Rangers chairman and a multimillionaire, says, “This development will bring so much to the community around Ibrox, not just in terms of better housing and leisure facilities, but also through employment opportunities.”

The leader of the Scottish National Party group on Glasgow city council, John Mason, disagrees. He told Socialist Worker, “The disadvantages of building this casino well outweigh any possible advantages.

“It will only increase gambling addiction and all the problems associated with that.These are things that we see on a small scale now, but having a proposed 1,250 slot machines in the area will make the situation much worse.

“There is also the question of where the money spent in this casino will come from. Apparently they think that 50 percent will be local money. But it’s not as if people round here are sitting on wads of cash.”

Super casinos are part of the government’s relaxation of the 1968 gambling law. New Labour originally planned for there to be a super casino in every region.

The change in the law brought Britain into line with

countries such as Australia and New Zealand. These countries relaxed their legislation in the mid-1980s. A look at what has happened there should warn us of what to expect.

A survey in New Zealand found that people gambled £2,500 million last year compared to £264 million in the year before the laws were relaxed.

It also showed that the money spent was disproportionately higher among people with lower levels of education and employment. These tend to be people with less money to begin with.

The survey found that the poorest were much more likely to have problems with gambling addiction than the rich.

Bob Holman is a retired professor of social policy and author who lives in the Ibrox area.

He told Socialist Worker, “This proposed development is planned for just a mile or so from where I live — in the ward of Ibrox, which is the 13th most deprived ward in Scotland.

“The council is arguing that this is just the place to have it, because it will bring jobs to the area, but I think that is a fallacious argument. There’s no guarantee that the kind of jobs a casino offers will actually suit the abilities of unemployed people in the area.

“If there is a real concern about jobs then there are other ways of spending huge amounts of money rather than building a casino, so I think we need to undermine that argument.

“It’s like saying lets have more arms factories because they provide employment without looking at the effect on the area.

Problem gamblers

“My major concern is the danger of gambling. Although I might sound a puritan I don’t think there is any harm with people having the odd flutter on the Grand National or whatever.

“But we should remember that there are already 300,000 problem gamblers in Britain and there is no way that setting up huge casinos is going to reduce that number—it can only increase addiction.

“Clearly there are many people who can afford to go to a big casino. But in a place like Ibrox you’re going to draw in many people who can’t afford it, but can’t resist the pull of these enormous prizes.

“I have seen in my life something of the damage caused by gambling addiction — what it can do to families. And once you are in, it is difficult it is to get out.

“I met up with a guy the other day — when I first knew him he was just a teenager, and he got addicted to slot machines.

“Now he is out of it but it took 17 years of petty crime and cost him two relationships. How much better would it have been if he had never got drawn into it in the first place?

“There was a report in the British Medical Journal last year which made the link between gambling and ill health, particularly in terms of depression and even suicide.

“Figures from Australia showed that among homeless people 38 percent blame gambling for getting them into the situation they are in.

“Culture minister Tessa Jowell was talking as though there are no casinos in Britain, but there are already over 120. The government’s legislation is about introducing the big US-style casinos.

“I don’t think there is any logic behind these plans. The government argue that in some areas there is an unmet demand for gambling facilities—that’s just nonsense.

“A poll was carried out earlier this year by NOP that found that 93 percent of people thought there were sufficient facilities for gambling.

“So these casinos are not even wanted, except by people at the very top. This is not for the benefit of ordinary people. This is to put more and more money into the pockets of the fat cats.

“I feel this could reinforce the culture of greed which in some ways explains poverty — we can tolerate the fat cats having £1 million a year when others make do on £7,000. This is the culture of greed that tolerates inequality.”


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Features
Sat 8 Oct 2005, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1971
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