Super-casino looks like a high-risk social gamble for Glasgow

GLASGOW is often the subject of analysis for 4-4-2 formations on the football field, but the focus is shifting to the 1-8-8 formation and the potential debut of the super-casino at the head of a line-up of smaller ones.

From George Square right along the Clyde you can smell the anticipation in the air and almost see gaming chips stacked up around the tables.

As Glasgow emerges as one of the front-runners to win the UK's first super-casino licence, the mood is upbeat about how such a project will regenerate the city and attract vast sums of money for the economy as well as much-needed job creation.

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But Glasgow has some of the most deprived areas in the UK. With the social, drugs and alcohol issues to grapple with, does the city really need an establishment where high-risk gambling is the order of the day?

A recent study by Glasgow Caledonian University identified that one in four problem gamblers also abuses drugs or alcohol and faces debt- management problems.

Figures across the UK suggest that up to 300,000 people fall into the category of problem gamblers.

Coupled with a relaxation in 24-hour rule membership, the enactment of the Gambling Act 2005 saw casinos welcome an 8 per cent rise in visitors. That's over 100,000 people since the act went through and these figures will continue to rise.

Over a third of councils in the UK have expressed an interest in housing a super casino. With the Department of Culture, Media and Sport alluding to a possible U-turn on the 1-8-8 formation of casinos, if there is enough political will behind it there might well be a persuasive case being prepared by Whitehall mandarins for a second or more super-casinos.

In Scotland, Glasgow City Council is firmly behind the casino developers.

The sultans of spin have positioned the potential super-casino as a victory for regeneration and it is no longer viewed as a leisure development.

A cynic might suggest that regeneration attracts more kudos and support by way of grants. On the other hand, the industry is at pains to keep it as an entertainment venue although stretching the point by suggesting it can be enjoyed by families.

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Glasgow was quick out the starting blocks to put its marker down as a venue for a super- casino. I hope that if the city is successful in its bid, that the planners are equally swift in ensuring that it is taking all reasonable steps to carry out its responsibility by addressing the issue of problem gambling.

In other parts of the UK, some providers are suggesting that the successful bidder for the super-casino should also plough 1 million into a treatment programme for problem gamblers, a noble idea that is definitely worth exploring. It would be a sad reflection if, 20 years down the line, we looked back on this opportunity and felt wiser after the event.

Peter Perrins is the managing director of Carlton Bingo, the UK's largest independent bingo operator