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28/05/2003 No.25
he Good Gambler
The Editor or one of our professional correspondants make regular contributions to coverage of the gambling world.
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New Gambling Laws Put On Ice!?

Goverment decides on change by the back door

It has been announced that the Government's crowded Parliamentary timetable means a gaming law is not expected in this autumn's Queen's Speech, which sets out legislation for the coming year. It is set to be postponed until after the next General Election, and may never be introduced at all.

What! After all the hype and promise. You might however be confused, as well you should be. One year after the White Paper on gambling reform and only a month after promising a similar such detailed review of online-gambling, the government not surprisingly backs out.

It does make sense though. No one in the government realised that there were no end of moralistic organisations just waiting to have a bash at the Labour Party for liberalising gambling for the sake of increased tax revenue. Its tailor made for it. Instead, bright sparks that they are, the flunkies at the DCMS have realised that they can change the existing 1968 Gaming Act piece by piece to get the same effect. No one will notice or can notice because it is so fragmented with changes and complete reversals of its intention over the last 35 years that few people know exactly what the law is.

For instance there is a new motion in the House Of Commons to amend the said 1968 Act to allow players to use banknotes and smartcards in slot machines. This means empty your entire current account if you want in the search for 3 Bells and no one gives a toss any more. You will be able to credit your account directly if you win or take notes or even a credit slip to the cashier. No longer a bucket of one pound coins. The high rollers can safely play now without getting their fingers dirty. They might get them burnt though.

As previously stated, Kerzner International Limited from Paradise Island in The Bahamas has justed purchased a license and an undeveloped property located in the town centre of Northampton. We now know MGM Mirage is looking to take a 25% stake in Metro Casinos limited, a subsidiary of Westcliff Casino (R J Brown Ltd). The combo want a new casino in Bristol, a city that has moved from 4 to 3 casinos recently and has no modern casino facilities. Its clear that MGM know in advance that they are likely to be granted a licence to co-operate casinos in the UK. Further they want to open another casino in Southend, where Westciff already run the 2 new casinos.

The Americans are coming. Slowly. The local Alderney Gambling Control Commission issued two new interactive gaming licences and one electronic betting licence. This brings the total number of Alderney-based licensees to seven. One of the new licensees is VI Ltd, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Las Vegas Sands Inc, owners of The Venetian, the largest casino resort hotel in Las Vegas. As well, Bally Gaming and Systems business unit has acquired Honeyframe Software Development Ltd., a leading United Kingdom gaming machine management systems company based in Telford, England.

So the Americans are infiltrating the UK gambling market bit by bit in the hope that they can take part in a possible massive expansion. I think they are expecting much more than they will get.

And so on to the Government's recent paper concerning regulation of the online gambling world. The paper talks a lot about licenses and safe software and proper accounting procedures, which are all basically good things. Then it goes onto to say that gambling sites will have to slow down their games so as not to pressure customers into betting out of control. Also they would have to halt play for each individual once every hour and show them how much they have won or lost.

These are noble ideas. Alas only those that are obliged to get licensed, those who are based in the UK like William Hill, will do so. No one else, like Victor Chandler, will subject themselves to changes that will annoy their customers and more importantly reduce their rate of income. More to the point however, the Government's total lack of will power to get these gambling laws changed and new ones established means that all this is hot air for years to come. By which time internet gambling sites will be based in the right places to get maximum advantage from licensing, whether it be in the UK or the Isle of Man or Alderney or a host of such places.