Church Leaders Attack Supercasinos

The controversy over the government’s decision to award a series of licences to casino operators raged on as church leaders spoke out. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, said he was “concerned” about the message gambling sent out.

On Tuesday, the Casino Advisory Panel recommended Manchester to become home to Britain’s first ever supercasino as well as handing out eight licences for large casinos and eight for smaller venues. Its findings will be considered by Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell before going to a Commons vote.

The British Casino Association, which represents 90% of Britain’s casinos, joined the argument complaining the 17 new casinos will have “all manner” of commercial freedoms not available to existing venues.

Dr Williams said it was clear from research that gambling is a “more and more popular form of addiction”, and the seriousness of it should not be “under-rated”. He said: “All addictions are imprisonments for the soul and therefore any form of addiction is something that ought to be of concern to the population at large and to the religious population in particular.

“I’m concerned about the messages that are being sent out; about the messages that are being sent out about gambling and children which will need to be controlled very, very vigorously.”

The Anglican Bishop of Hulme, Stephen Lowe, told Channel 4 News: “These facilities are alongside some of the poorest communities and there is every evidence to suggest that actually gambling addiction follows the development of casinos – a massive rise in gambling addiction. These communities are already vulnerable. Do we really want people to be going in to the 1,250 slot machines that are going to be in this facility before they go into Asda/Wal-Mart for their weekly shop? Frankly, there is evidence to suggest that people will go hungry because of these sorts of facility and that’s not a better Britain.”