There is something quite satisfying in the fact that the destination of the UK’s first super-casino is such a rank outsider.
The bookies, together with the usual crowd of political pundits, had suggested we were facing a two-horse race – the old Millennium Dome site in Greenwich and Blackpool’s fading seafront.
But it is 16-1 long shot Manchester, which barely registered in most people’s permutations, which has come out on top http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/6312707.stm).
Actually, it is still open to debate whether hosting the country’s first American-style super-casino is a huge plus, or a poisoned chalice. It is ironic that two such unsuitable words – “super” and “casino” – should be lumped together into a development so many seem determined to claim is a progressive step forward.
Having visited some of the Las Vegas casinos that apparently will provide a model for our super-casino, I can honestly state I will do everything possible to steer as far away from the Manchester development.
I have never visited anywhere as soulless, depressing, irritatingly loud and gawdy, utterly charmless and disagreeable as a Las Vegas casino. If that is some people’s idea of a good time then let them enjoy it – pipe endless loops of reality television shows onto giant screens and you’ll have a truly captive and vacant audience throwing away money they can’t afford to lose.
Taste considerations aside, it is interesting to note the justification for picking Manchester ahead of the bookies’ and pundits’ favourites.
Professor Stephen Crow, chairman of the independent Casino Advisory Panel, said the successful bid was chosen because of its “very thorough consultation” with the local community and “the way it dealt with questions of problem gambling”.
It is heartening to hear, but it does nothing to allay the genuine fears of so many that creating such a gamblers’ paradise will do nothing to solve the serious addiction many already suffer. Equally, it will do nothing to alleviate some of the anti-social issues that are invariably linked to such developments.
As well as the Manchester “resort”, the Government is recommending “large” casinos at sites in Great Yarmouth, Hull, Leeds, Middlesbrough, Milton Keynes, Newham, Solihull and Southampton. There will also be licences for “small” casinos in Bath and North East Somerset, Dumfries and Galloway, East Lindsey, Luton, Scarborough, Swansea, Torbay and Wolverhampton.
I see absolutely no merit in going down this route. The only remotely enjoyable aspect is the fact that the decisions completely caught out so many self-appointed “experts” – BBC’s coverage prior to the announcement, for example, focused solely on Greenwich and Blackpool and completely dismissed the others on the shortlist with barely a mention that they had submitted bids.
So where does this all leave us?
Far from creating a glittering entertainment “resort”, I can’t helping thinking the Government has simply spotted yet another opportunity to make some easy money and completely disregarded the consequences.