Wednesday, July 12, 2006


Over the last year the issue of gambling has come up as an issue. Yesterday in the USA, the House of Representatives passed legislation relating to gambling which by our standards is pretty puritanical and seeks to regulate the issue that is way beyond what I believe the role of Government should be in passing legislation.

While Internet gambling has been banned for a number of years in the USA, this legislation goes further in seeking to ban the use of credit cards and debit cards for overseas gambling sites. All sport betting is also banned except for horse racing; can you imagine a situation here where we could not have passed wagers on the World Cup?

In a country that contains Las Vegas which is greatest mecca to gambling in the world, it makes our attempts to set up one super casino seem small. The hypocrisy and contradictions are as usual plain to see in the land of the free.

I do accept that issues exist with gambling addiction and it is a problem like alcohol people face and need to have counseling or help. These do affect the welfare of many families and I know of people who have had addictions to gambling. However prohibition or seeking to restrict is not the answer.

Anyone addicted to gambling already has ample opportunity to splash their cash on the net or down the bookies without the need to vist casinos. I am not for Las Vegas in England (having been to the place twice it is very over the top but worth a visit); however it is for Government to balance up the responsibility it has to citizens coupled with the duty of the state to regulate certain activities of our citizens. Before you think I am a compulsive gambler, I like a flutter but I have never gambled in my life over the net. I am also not employed as a lobbyist on behalf of the gambling industry. However gambling is nothing new and it should not be for us to dictate an issue which ultimately lies as an issue of personal responsibility.

At least in this country, the Government has passed legislation which is pretty sensible. The legislation put down safeguards on Internet gambling which are fair and recognise the growth that has taken place in recent years. Also the protection of children is something that needs to be recognised and the legislation rightfully contains provision on this matter.

Tonight, Merton Council will debate its Draft Gambling Policy; I believe that the policy is generally a sensible document. During my two years as Chair of the Licensing Committee, we decided not to put in an application in for a super casino or a medium sized casino. I believe this was the right decision as we had no sites that could be deemed suitable in planning terms. In terms of establishing sites, I believe that great importance should be given to planning issues and the potential impact on residents especially if they are 24-7 along with the number extra people they would generate along with other associated issues. Any opposition I may have would come more this principle rather then the rights and wrong of gambling.

I have attached below the article from today's New York Times on gambling.


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