MP presses for meeting on casino plan

STEPHEN PULLINGER Yarmouth MP Tony Wright will be seeking an urgent meeting with secretary of state for culture, media and sport James Purnell to press the continued case for the resort having a large casino.

STEPHEN PULLINGER

Yarmouth MP Tony Wright will be seeking an urgent meeting with secretary of state for culture, media and sport James Purnell to press the continued case for the resort having a large casino.

Returning from parliamentary business in Slovakia on Wednesday, Mr Wright missed Gordon Brown's shock Prime Minister's Questions reply that appeared to kill off the Las Vegas-style super-casino planned for Manchester and leave a question mark over proposals for 16 smaller casinos, including the one at Yarmouth.

A large casino, given approval in January, has been widely viewed as giving a massive regeneration boost to Yarmouth, bringing up to 1,500 new jobs and £40m in extra income annually.

Mr Wright, who sat on the parliamentary pre-legislative committee looking at gambling reform, said: “This certainly leaves a question mark and that is why I am angry about the House of Lords defeating the Bill earlier this year - without that the casinos would already be going ahead.

“I am seeking a meeting with the secretary of state to try to address these issues. We always knew there was some element of concern over the super-casino and Mr Brown has now said let's have a look at that over the summer. Where they are stuck between Blackpool and Manchester it could be seen as an easy solution to dump them both.

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“However, the other casinos have got support - we have done the tests about local approval - and I will be urging the secretary of state to push ahead with these even though it can't now come back to parliament before the autumn.”

Mr Brown's apparent rejection of building casinos on moral grounds marked a major policy shift from the Blair years in Downing Street - when then culture secretary Tessa Jowell has happy to pose for photographs at a roulette table.

Mr Wright said one positive thing to have come out of Mr Brown's reply was that he acknowledged the need to find other ways of regenerating coastal towns.

“If they come back saying, 'sorry, no casino', what are we going to get? We can't get a top class hotel without something to attract a developer into the town.”

In his reply to a stage-managed question from a Labour backbencher, Mr Brown, the son of a clergyman, said: “In September we will have a report that will look at gambling in our country - the incidence and prevalence of it and the social effects of it.

“I hope that during these summer months we can look at whether regeneration in the areas for the super-casinos may be a better way of meeting their economic and social needs than the creation of super-casinos.”

Tory leader David Cameron called for a government statement on super-casinos to clear up the confusion.

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