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|Super-casino 'will spark crime wave' - secret police
| Antony Barnett,
investigations editor Sunday January 14, 2007
The government's controversial plans to give the
green light to Las Vegas-style super-casinos across the country are facing
fresh scrutiny after a secret police report raised concerns that they would
cause crime and antisocial behaviour to rise.
The internal police report
undermines government pledges that the new casinos would not lead to a rise in
crime or problem gambling, particularly among the young. It says that
'vulnerable' groups could be lured into gambling.
The secret report
will be highly embarrassing for the Culture Secretary, Tessa Jowell, who has
promoted the gambling plans as being good for the country and is expected to
name the site of the country's first super-casino in two weeks' time, with the
Dome in London the front-runner.
The report, provided
to consultants analysing the Dome development, says police are concerned that
the new breed of casinos would risk:
· increasing antisocial
behaviour and diverting police resources;
· increasing organised
crime and money laundering; and
· increasing access to gambling for
children and vulnerable groups.
The document, obtained during an
investigation by Channel 4's Dispatches programme and The Observer, will be
seen as a direct attack on Jowell. She has always insisted the Gambling Act
will not lead to a rise in social problems such as compulsive gambling and
The report was written by Britain's top police officer
responsible for gambling, Detective Inspector Darren Warner of the Metropolitan
Police's Gaming Unit. Warner was asked to submit his views to consultant
PricewaterhouseCoopers, which was preparing a study into the social impact of a
super-casino at the Millennium Dome. The report is dated March 2006, but has
not been made public until today.
Warner is particularly concerned
about the combination of new casinos with the relaxation of drinking laws.
'Excessive drinking and gambling are a poor combination,' he states.
'Deregulation raises concerns around incentives to customers, cheap drinks
etc... with corresponding antisocial behaviour problems.'
gives super-casinos a 'cautious welcome', he warns: '[With] a massive
development attracting thousands, or possible hundreds, of people a day there
are obvious problems related to that. The biggest contributor to antisocial
behaviour problems in the area is not the fact that the premises hold gaming
licences, it is the additional fact they will hold liquor licences... this
would mean a shift in the demand on police from their traditional activities.'
Warner also fears that super-casinos would 'increase access to gambling
for children and vulnerable groups'. He states: 'This will happen, as it's in
every developer's manifesto. The "destination casinos" are offering other
family-oriented activities. Children will be taken to a gambling resort even if
they are kept 50 yards away in another type of play room until they graduate at
Warner also fears that sex-based attractions will be used to lure
gamblers in. While the industry has promised this will not be the case, Warner
states: 'When market forces are placed on the industry there are real concerns
that the industry will not maintain its undertakings.'
report also lambasts the government for allowing casinos to accept punters
without requiring them to become members. Warner says: 'The membership rule is
to be abolished; this is to be replaced with a requirement for casinos to
require positive identification of those who enter casinos. For law enforcement
this is insufficient.' Warner insists 'identification' should mean a passport
or a driving licence: a requirement that the industry, with the help of
ministers, has so far resisted.
Shadow Culture Secretary Hugo Swire
said: 'It seems extraordinary that such dire warnings from police experts
should have seemingly been swept under the carpet.'
criticises the casino industry's practice of hiring eastern European staff. He
states: 'The industry that prides itself as being "more regulated than the
London and New York stock exchanges" ... has a body of employees whose history
cannot be checked further back than the day they entered the UK.'
spokesman for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport said: 'Keeping out
crime and protecting children and vulnerable people are central principles of
the Gambling Act.... All casinos will be subject to strict controls and their
impact will be closely monitored.'
· Dispatches: Labour's
Gambling Addiction' will be shown on Channel 4 at 8pm on 22 January.