The Salvation Army and the Methodist Church have warned of the damage that an increase in casinos will have on the most vulnerable people in society as Parliament votes today on the Government's controversial plans to bring in 17 new casinos, including the supercasino in Manchester.
"Evidence suggests that the new casinos, the increasing popularity of online gambling and the general drift towards the 'normalisation' of gambling within British culture, could result in many more people developing a serious gambling addiction over an extended period," said Alison Jackson, Secretary for Parliamentary and Political Affairs for the Methodist Church.
"We are not convinced that increasing gambling opportunities is a good thing for our nation and all of us who live here, " she added.
Captain Matt Spencer of The Salvation Army said: "The Salvation Army and the Methodist Church would have preferred to see no new casinos allowed under the Gambling Act 2005. We therefore welcome any debate which allows space for a further consideration of the overall impact of increased gambling opportunities."
The leader of the Christian Peoples Alliance group on Newham Council, meanwhile, has called for Christians to continue praying that Parliament does not approve the new casino licence.
"Opposition to gambling free-for-all is growing. God cannot want a casino in east London," said Cllr Craig of the CPA.
"Here in Newham where we have been offered London's sole large casino licence, the opposition is growing," said Cllr Craig. "Christians, Muslims and other faith groups are challenging the notion that the construction of casinos will regenerate deprived inner-city areas like ours. Instead we are highlighting the tremendous social cost of casinos in terms of increased gambling addiction, personal debt, family breakdown and crime. God is always on the side of the poor and vulnerable so we may be sure He cannot want a casino in east London."
Predicting the problems the vote may have, Cllr Craig added: "The Government is under pressure from within its own ranks in Parliament and it may even lose the vote in the Lords and - just possibly - the Commons too.
In Newham, the executive mayor Sir Robin Wales backed down from plans to implement the large casino licence, appointing instead an independent commission to assess the impact of a casino on the borough.
"Sir Robin should be congratulated for seeing some sense on this, although it would be better if he simply refused the licence," he said.
The CPA head concluded: "We should pray that the votes fail in Parliament and that the government's whole casino policy and gambling free-for-all is sent back to the drawing board."
Christians Voice Alarm as Parliament Votes on Casino Licences
Christians are praying that Parliament will not approve a new casino licence at a vote taking place today in the Commons and Lords.
Published 28 March 2007 | Jennifer Gold and Maria Mackay