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

The Salvation Army and the Methodist Church are encouraginglocal groups to speak out about any proposals for casinos in theircommunities under the new Gambling Act. The two churches haveproduced resources for any faith group or local action groupwanting to get involved in the debate over casinos in theircommunities as councils submit formal proposals to the Government'sCasino 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, orso-called 'Super-casino', will contain hard forms of gambling thathave never been seen before in the UK, including £1 millionjackpots. 45 local authorities have approached the Advisory Panel,expressing initial interest in hosting the 'Super-casino'. ThePanel will consider all formal applications and then recommendLocal Authority areas for the locations of the new casinos,although not the specific sites within those areas. The locationsare listed below.

The Salvation Army and the Methodist Church ran a successfulaward-winning Gambling Bill campaign to add more measures toprotect children and vulnerable people, including limiting thenumber of regional casinos to one so that thorough research can bedone 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 yourchurch/faith group or concern group to tell your local council howyou feel about the proposals,' commented Major Bill Cochrane of TheSalvation Army. 'People must not underestimate the power of localcampaigns and the effect that letters and petitions can have. Wehave supplied briefing papers to explain the issues to people, sothat if any local groups or individuals want to take action theyhave the necessary tools to do so.'

There are an estimated 370,000 problem gamblers in the UK and anyincrease in gambling opportunities is likely to lead to a rise inproblem gambling. There is no evidence to show what effect aregional casino may have on a UK community but experience in the USshows a rise in gambling-related debt, crime, bankruptcy, andassociated social problems including unemployment and familybreakdown. In an NOP poll commissioned by The Salvation Army, 56%of the population, and 64% of women, said they would not be happyfor a casino to open where they live*.

'Local church groups can mount an effective and successful campaignif they want to challenge proposals for a casino in their area,'said Alison Jackson, Secretary for Political and ParliamentaryAffairs for The Methodist Church. 'The changes to the Gambling Act2005 achieved by the joint campaign mean that the local people mustbe heard and that social responsibility is at the heart of thelegislation. This guidance explains in detail how to target effortsand join with others to achieve success.'

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