shine_casino-1649It was an interesting question to ask a Methodist minister:

“We’re putting in a bid to the council for the available 2005 Gaming Act Licence, and wondered if we could put a bit about you in the application.”

It is nice to know I am considered an asset, but an interesting concept: a Methodist minister featured in an application for a gaming licence.

Seven years ago the Rank Group approached the mainstream churches with a request for a chaplain in a casino. Only the Methodist Church showed interest, so Stephen Wiley, then chair of the Methodist Workplace Chaplains Forum and chaplain to the NEC Group, was asked to lead on the set-up.

The pilot was proposed for the Grosvenor G Casino in Luton and knowing I was resident there, Stephen invited me to be involved in the planning group for chaplaincy and for local funding for debt counselling as part of the company’s social responsibility strategy.

I realised I was interested in this quirky opportunity, declined to be on the interview panel and instead applied for the job. I have now been there more than five years.

It is an interesting place to be, in a casino, trying to understand the complexities of a dealer’s job, adding up in their head. Do you know your 17 times table?

There are, of course, varied reactions from Methodists to my role, many of them expressing opposition to gambling – and yet these same people wouldn’t take part in a Roehampton research project into the social effects of a casino.

But then there are the conversations when I think, “That’s why I am here”. The young woman feeling guilty at the excitement of her forthcoming first child while her husband was preoccupied with his mother dying on the other side of Europe; another harassed by a neighbour who has caused previous tenants to leave; a young man involved in a racist attack...

A recent review showed me the importance of being ‘a smiling face in the staff room’, at times when I felt I wasn’t doing a lot.   I am not good at ‘being’, but it is often what this job needs.

I much preferred the evening I assisted taking drinks orders from the restaurant to the bar! That’s another interesting role for a Methodist minister!

Jenny Spouge

This article originally appeared in the connexion magazine, issue 2.
Photo of The Revd Jenny Spouge, casino chaplain at Grosvenor G Casino in Luton: © Revd Langley Mackrell-Hey/Shine Photographics, TMCP