Britain gambles on casino in Manchester

Stephen Beard Jan 30, 2007

KAI RYSSDAL: Gamblers looking for a change of venue will soon have another choice. Manchester, in the north of England, has been chosen as the home for the U.K.’s first super-casino. It’ll have the works: roulette, card tables and unlimited slot machines. Manchester figures it’s hit the jackpot. But critics say Britain’s taking a dangerous gamble. From London, Marketplace’s Stephen Beard reports.

STEPHEN BEARD: Britain has never seen anything like it — 1,200 slot machines, each with a payout up to $2 million. For the first time in the U.K. a casino will be glitzy, with live entertainment. In Parliament, the minister Tessa Jowell told her critics the country isn’t heading down the road to ruin.

TESSA JOWELL: Las Vegas is not coming to Great Britain. British casinos will be subject to new controls which will be the strictest in the world.

The supercasino will be in a rundown part of Manchester and will create 3,000 much-needed jobs, says City Council boss Richard Leese.

RICHARD LEESE: It’s going to be to be a real boost to the regeneration of what is one of the most deprived areas of the country. And we’re now really looking forward to taking this forward.

But Justin Williams, a reformed gambling addict, doesn’t share that enthusiasm for the supercasino — or for the other 16 smaller new-style casinos around Britain also announced today.

JUSTIN WILLIAMS: We’re making gambling more accessible to more vulnerable people. And gambling is just as addictive as an addiction to a substance.

The government says it’ll be watching the new casinos carefully to monitor the economic and the social effects.

In London, this is Stephen Beard for Marketplace.

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