In advance of Wednesday's votes in Parliament on thegeographical distribution of casino premises licences, TheSalvation Army and the Methodist Church have re-stated theirgeneral concerns relating to increased gambling opportunities,particularly the potentially devastating effects on thevulnerable.

'Evidence suggests that the new casinos, the increasing popularityof online gambling and the general drift towards the'normalisation' of gambling within British culture, could result inmany more people developing a serious gambling addiction over anextended period. We are not convinced that increasing gamblingopportunities is a good thing for our nation and all of us who livehere, ' said Alison Jackson, Secretary for Parliamentary andPolitical Affairs for the Methodist Church.

The 'super casino' will house up to 1,250 highly addictiveunlimited jackpot machines. The other 16 new casinos will be largerthan anything currently operating in the UK. While the MethodistChurch and The Salvation Army have welcomed the Government'srecognition of the need for protection under the Act for vulnerablepeople and children, they believe there are still some fundamentalissues to be addressed in this debate.

'The Salvation Army and the Methodist Church would have preferredto see no new casinos allowed under the Gambling Act 2005. Wetherefore welcome any debate which allows space for a furtherconsideration of the overall impact of increased gamblingopportunities,' said Captain Matt Spencer, of The SalvationArmy.

It is estimated that there are already around 400,000 problemgamblers in the UK and the super casino will house some of the mostaddictive forms of gambling. Problem gambling can result inrelationship breakdown, financial ruin, homelessness and in extremecases, suicide. Its effects are far-reaching, impacting not onlythe individual gambler, but also their family, friends, and thewider community.

The Salvation Army and the Methodist Church campaigned during thepassage of the Gambling Bill, requesting greater measures toprotect children and vulnerable people The Gambling Act includesprovision for the proper monitoring of the effects of theseincreased gambling opportunities and the two Churches have recentlyreminded the government of the need to keep to its commitments toproperly evaluate the effects of the new casinos, wherever they maybe sited.

The minimum casino evaluation period of three years must bemeasured from the opening of the new casinos, rather than from theawarding of the licences, as there could be a considerable amountof time between the license being awarded and the casino actuallyopening.