UK casino operators slam Government gambling plan

The UK’s casino operators are furious with the Government over plans to allow unlimited fruit machine jackpots – likely to be worth millions of pounds – because none of the UK’s existing casinos are large enough to qualify for the new high prize machines.

The latest draft of the Gambling Bill says casinos with a minimum 5,000 sq m floorspace will be able to have 2,500 no-limits “Category A” machines. But a spokesman for UK industry body the British Casino Association, which represents about 90 per cent of the country’s 126 casinos, says no existing UK casino qualifies, and the only companies which would benefit would be new entrants to the market – almost certainly the big US casino operators.

New, super-size “regional” casinos would therefore have a built-in advantage over existing UK casinos, where the maximum jackpot on a fruit machine would be capped at £500, lower than presently allowed.

The spokesman says: “It’s not a level playing field – you can’t restrict existing operators in that way while giving new entrants a free hand. UK casinos just wouldn’t be able to compete on product offering.”

Unlimited jackpot machines have enormous pulling power in the US, the world’s biggest gambling market, and also contribute significantly to casino operators’ profits. However, they also attract heavy criticism from critics of the Government’s plans to deregulate gambling in the UK, who claim they are highly addictive.

The Government argues that deregulating gambling could bring significant foreign investment to the UK, potentially creating more than 100,000 jobs.

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