'Make your voice heard over casino plans' say Salvation Army and Methodist Church

The Salvation Army and the Methodist Church are encouraging local groups to speak out about any proposals for casinos in their communities under the new Gambling Act. The two churches have produced resources for any faith group or local action group wanting to get involved in the debate over casinos in their communities as councils submit formal proposals to the Government's Casino Advisory Panel by the end of March 2006.

The new Gambling Act gives the green light to one regional casino, 8 large casinos and 8 small casinos. The one regional casino, or so-called 'Super-casino', will contain hard forms of gambling that have never been seen before in the UK, including £1 million jackpots. 45 local authorities have approached the Advisory Panel, expressing initial interest in hosting the 'Super-casino'. The Panel will consider all formal applications and then recommend Local Authority areas for the locations of the new casinos, although not the specific sites within those areas. The locations are listed below.

The Salvation Army and the Methodist Church ran a successful award-winning Gambling Bill campaign to add more measures to protect children and vulnerable people, including limiting the number of regional casinos to one so that thorough research can be done into its impact on the community it is built in.

'If your city or town is listed here it is now up to you and your church/faith group or concern group to tell your local council how you feel about the proposals,' commented Major Bill Cochrane of The Salvation Army. 'People must not underestimate the power of local campaigns and the effect that letters and petitions can have. We have supplied briefing papers to explain the issues to people, so that if any local groups or individuals want to take action they have the necessary tools to do so.'

There are an estimated 370,000 problem gamblers in the UK and any increase in gambling opportunities is likely to lead to a rise in problem gambling. There is no evidence to show what effect a regional casino may have on a UK community but experience in the US shows a rise in gambling-related debt, crime, bankruptcy, and associated social problems including unemployment and family breakdown. In an NOP poll commissioned by The Salvation Army, 56% of the population, and 64% of women, said they would not be happy for a casino to open where they live*.

'Local church groups can mount an effective and successful campaign if they want to challenge proposals for a casino in their area,' said Alison Jackson, Secretary for Political and Parliamentary Affairs for The Methodist Church. 'The changes to the Gambling Act 2005 achieved by the joint campaign mean that the local people must be heard and that social responsibility is at the heart of the legislation. This guidance explains in detail how to target efforts and join with others to achieve success.'

Local authorities have to submit their formal proposals to the Casino Advisory Panel by end of March 2006. All resources are available on the two churches' websites Ð www.salvationarmy.org.uk and www.methodistchurch.org.uk.

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