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02/08/2001 No.9
he Good Gambler
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Gaming Review or Blank Cheque

Anyone visiting from another planet with just a tiny amount of objectivity would be hard pressed not to conclude that the Independent Gaming Review by Sir Alan Budd to the government was written by the Chairman of Stanley Leisure or Rank or Gala or for that matter Hilton. On the other hand not only was a review needed badly but the changes are needed quickly, so where do we stand.

Well the responsibility for Gambling has now moved to The Department for Culture, Media and Sport a move we hope will juice a more liberal attitude. For 30 years a band of ex-army and police officers have patrolled the casino world in the UK with very little noticeable effect and non-existent gambling knowledge. If there is an ounce of thinking in this new department then that quango will surely go. But on to the proposals, this week Casinos, next time the Internet and Bookmaking.

To simplify the changes envisaged in this report, and they may take five years to get here anyway, we may as well say that anything goes. If you can imagine it, Sir Alan Budd thinks its a good idea. We like his fee liberal approach but somehow its the responsibility of government to have a view, he doesn't.

Good things begin with entertainment in casinos, after all why not? Also removal of private club status, this won't be compulsory but if large operators open up then competition will follow. it won't Vegas like walk in casinos but more like the Dutch casino chain where ID and a fee is required without membership.

Other good ideas are no limits on opening times and more competition by allowing any licensed operator to open a casino where ever they want. Also a casino can offer other types of gambling like Sports Betting and even offer online gambling based on the games going on inside the casino.

So what's bad? Well how about letting people gamble with their credit cards! What, are you serious? I found it hard to read that part of the report and not think of buying shares in casino operators. My bet is that won't get passed the House of Commons.

Drinking at gaming tables, although good for all you poker players, just isn't going to make life any better on Saturday night inside a grimy little club. Worse still, Tipping of staff. The report says that it can't see why this is not allowed but then the writers don't gamble. It will just make winning a whole lot more difficult and losing much faster especially for the weak willed amongst us.

Then the new games. Allow anything they want! The first games they want are Wheel of Fortune and 3 Card Poker (Brag to you and me) which they are already lobbying for right now.

One really good thing in the report is the new idea of "Fairness to the Punter" and "Protecting the Vulnerable". These are great steps forward but rather naively put. The report basically says allow anything so long as the punter is informed of the risks involved. That doesn't sound too much like protection.