According to Europe’s only professor of gambling, the number of problem gamblers will increase dramatically across Scotland if officials adopt a plan to build four mega-casinos in Glasgow, The Herald reported.
Dr Mark Griffiths, professor of gambling studies at Nottingham Trent University, fears that Glasgow’s deprived communities would suffer the most from the massive developments touted as a keystone of the city’s regeneration.
The professor warned that Glasgow, which has four casinos planned, could follow the example of South Africa, where deregulation of gambling and the growth of the super-casino created an epidemic in gambling addiction.
“Glasgow has pockets of poverty and deprivation and these areas may be more susceptible to these casinos and the issue of problem gambling,” he said. “There has to be a cost-benefit analysis about the advent of casinos and their positive and negative aspects. Poorer people have been shown to spend a disproportionate amount of money on gambling.
“In South Africa, poorer people were flocking to casinos which sprung up around the townships. In some casinos, a small stake can produce a potentially life-changing win,” the professor said.
“The UK government is introducing these unlimited jackpots (in some casino gaming machines). In the vast majority of cases, when these big destination-type casinos are opened, problem gambling increases,” Griffiths argued.
“People will also travel in from smaller areas to get the big gaming experience and take that back home with them, and a proportion will develop a gambling problem. The problem is effectively exported. They will go back to their smaller towns and casinos and feed their playing behaviour there,” he said.
Earlier this month, Kerzner International, a global gaming group founded by Saul Kerzner, who developed Sun City in South Africa, announced a £162 million ($303 million) casino and entertainment concept that will include a 150-bed, five-star hotel near the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre (SECC).
In June, London Clubs International (LCI), another major international gambling company, was given a licence to open a casino on the Clyde.
The Rendezvous, its £8 million ($15 million) development at Springfield Quay, would create 200 jobs and be the focal point for a £40 million ($75 million) leisure revamp for the quay, with a mix of gaming facilities, themed bars and top-class restaurants.
The city currently has five of Scotland’s 12 casinos, including the Riverboat on the opposite bank of the Clyde. Other proposed super-casinos include plans by Sheldon Adelson, one of America’s richest men, to form a partnership with Rangers to bring a Las Vegas-style casino to Ibrox, and a move by U.S.-based MGM Mirage to open at the Glasgow Harbour scheme.
Geoff Rayner, of the Public Health Association, has echoed Dr Griffiths’s fears, claiming that an impending liberalisation of gambling laws could double the number of problem gamblers to 750,000 people in the U.K.
However, Glasgow City Council officials claimed that casinos and the leisure industry will play a vital part in the Clyde’s resurgence.
Ian Manson, deputy director of the council’s development and regeneration services, said that “Glasgow is already successful in attracting tourists and visitors. The operators see this success and want to build a resort casino concept to tap into the market.”
“A lot of the operators are looking around to expand after the [gambling] legislation is changed. There has been a lot of interest in the city from casino operators who want to be associated with the regeneration of the Clyde.”
“They are jostling for position to come to Glasgow. The leisure industry is a growth sector that will hopefully provide good quality jobs. There will be around £2 billion of investment in coming years on the Clyde and this is all part of that.”
Lesley Sawers, chief executive of Glasgow Chamber of Commerce, said the casinos would be good news for the Clyde and would fit with the vision of the city as a total leisure and shopping experience.
“These developments will put Glasgow on the map. Everyone recognises there will be social issues, but they can be resolved through education rather than handicapping the city by not allowing these developments,” she said.