The culture secretary today officially pulled the plug on the
government's controversial supercasino plans, citing the "uncertainty of the
Andy Burnham told
the House of Commons this afternoon that a Las Vegas-style gambling venue for
Manchester would not go ahead, ending months of U-turns, rivalry and frantic
lobbying from all directions.
Manchester's successful bid to host the
first large regional casino in the UK, with more than 1,000 gaming machines,
was awarded amid controversy early last year and later rejected by the Lords.
The minister said this afternoon
he had not "seen anything to suggest the will of parliament has changed", and
also that he had considered studies on the social impact of large regional
casinos that suggested few or no net benefits.
Sixteen smaller gambling
centres will go ahead subject to parliamentary approval, Burnham said,
explaining that he was "satisfied they do not pose the same level of risk to
the public". He said he would "proceed with caution" in evaluating future
gambling policy and outlined stricter rules for good practice in casinos.
Manchester officials, who are thought to have spent £250,000
preparing their bid for the casino, have expressed fury at the decision. It is
not yet clear if they will be satisfied with an alternative, multimillion pound
regeneration package outlined for the city, and for the rival bidders
Blackpool, by Burnham today.
The minister said he knew his decision
would "disappoint many in Manchester" but refused to apologise for the shift in
policy, following a question from the Tory shadow culture secretary, Jeremy
Hunt described the change as "not so much a U-turn as an S-bend".
The Liberal Democrat spokesman, Don Foster, said the plans had been "a wild and
expensive goose chase" for councils and the Labour MP for Manchester Central,
Tony Lloyd, called the government's change of mind "bonkers".
In one of
his earliest prime minister's questions sessions, Gordon Brown withdrew his
support for gambling provisions brought in by his predecessor. "We can look at
whether regeneration to tackle social ills is a better way forward than
supercasinos," he told MPs last summer.