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Live shows will sweeten Gambling Bill, say Tories

Gaming reform must serve as a means of producing additional facililties for live entertainment, Baroness Buscombe, shadow arts minister in the House of Lords, has urged the Gambling Commission and local authorities.

Speaking in the House of Lords as the Gambling Bill received its second reading, Buscombe said that introducing live music to regional casinos was one way of diffusing expectations among the public that more gaming operations would contribute to all-night drinking in towns and cities and a rise in serious crime.

She said: “We should take this opportunity to encourage the Gambling Commission and local authorities to look closely at what is on offer and to think strategically about facilities that will support more live music, sport and the arts.

“More live music means less trouble. Let us have new facilities for promoting a variety of live shows that could significantly enhance our quality of life and diffuse the ‘evils of gambling’ debate.”

Also speaking at the House of Lords, Viscount Falkland suggested that expectations of long-term investment and regeneration accompanying the Las Vegas-style casinos would depend largely on the level of entertainment provided at these sites.

Falkland, who also served on the pre-legislative committee scrutinising the bill, said: “The idea that you can regenerate through gambling alone is very short-term thinking. Even in Las Vegas, where gambling was the principal motor for generating great profits, it is now entertainment that generates those profits, and gambling is only part of that. I would have preferred it to have been clearly stated right from the outset that in Blackpool, for example, we would be seeking investment for entertainment, possibly including casinos where appropriate.”

However, according to US gaming giant MGM Mirage, entertainers may have to wait until 2007 before they will be able to benefit from increased job opportunities as a result of the bill.

Speaking at the Reuters Hotels and Casinos Summit, chief financial officer Jim Murren warned that potential legal arguments over the controversial legislation and the length of time it will take to develop the new sites would delay any Las Vegas-style casinos – which according to research must attract between 5,000 and 6,000 people a day in order to succeed – from opening in the UK until 2007 at the earliest.

He said: “The tabloids in the UK have really neutered the bill to expand gaming. But I think the bill will pass in its more muted form. It is unlikely anything will open until 2007 or later. Over time, I think MGM Mirage will operate a couple of these casinos. It is not what it could have been, or what it should have been, but it will be a good market.”