Casino hopes in a spin after Lords vote

Yarmouth's casino hopes were in a spin tonight after the government's plans for a new generation of gambling complexes were rejected in the House of Lords.

Yarmouth's casino hopes were in a spin tonight after the government's plans for a new generation of gambling complexes were rejected in the House of Lords.

The overall scheme for a supercasino at Manchester and 16 other casinos - including a large one at Yarmouth - secured a 24-vote majority (274 votes to 250) in the Commons despite a Labour revolt and opposition from the Tories and Liberal Democrats.

But a Lords amendment, approved by a majority of only three votes (123-120), proved fatal to the proposal in the form it was presented to Parliament.

Culture secretary Tessa Jowell immediately told the Commons that ministers would “want to reflect on the outcome of that vote”, and that she would return in due course with further proposals.

All bets seemed to be off after the Lords vote despite the narrowness of the government defeat. One of the main causes of its debacle was resentment on the Labour benches about the choice of Manchester rather than Blackpool as the location for the supercasino.

If the issue of the supercasino were made the subject of a separate vote, the other casinos, including Yarmouth's, would be expected to win parliamentary approval with little difficulty. But that would make the Manchester location more vulnerable, and ministers could plunge into further chaos if they pursued that option.

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Yarmouth MP Tony Wright expressed disappointment and concern last night about the delay that will now ensue. But he took comfort in the fact that the “elected” Commons had backed the government scheme and in the slender size of the Lords majority against it.

He thanked local Labour MPs Charles Clarke (Norwich South), Ian Gibson (Norwich North) and Bob Blizzard (Waveney) for backing the government scheme, but criticised Norfolk's Tory and Liberal Democrat MPs for opposing it. He also accused the Tories generally of “political opportunism” after their decision, a few days ago, to switch from supporting the proposals to voting against them.

Yarmouth Pleasure Beach boss Albert Jones, who is hoping to build the town's large casino next to his theme park, said: "I only see this as a blip because the Conservatives stood up in the Commons and said they would support the 16 smaller casinos, including Yarmouth's, wholeheartedly. I see it as a delay of a couple of months maximum.

"And I must congratulate Tony Wright for being a great ambassador for the town. He was one of the reasons Yarmouth was awarded the casino licence in the first place."

Borough council regeneration officer David Stannard said: "My first reaction is that I am pleased the elected house has approved it, but where do we go from here?

"Inevitably there is going to be delay and that is not what we want to greet inward investors who are coming to us with their cheque books open."