Christians Attack Manchester Supercasino

Christians have condemned Manchester's victory in the supercasino race, announced yesterday by the Government's Casino Advisory Panel.

The Manchester-based Christian charity Church Action on Poverty (CAP) warned that it is likely to create "crippling debts and undermine efforts to tackle child poverty in the city".

CAP further condemned yesterday's announcement to host the UK's first and only supercasino in Manchester as a "threat to worsen the city's already poor record on debt and child poverty".

Niall Cooper, national coordinator of Church Action on Poverty, and vice-chair of the Debt on our Doorstep network, said: "Only last week Save the Children reported that Manchester has one of the worst records for child poverty in the country. Locating the UK's first supercasino in east Manchester - one of the poorest areas of the city - runs the risk of worsening the city's already poor record on tackling child poverty.

"Many families across the city are already struggling to make ends meet - the supercasino is likely to tip many over the edge into crippling and unsustainable debt."

CAP also rejected reassurances from supporters that the supercasino would support regeneration in the area.

"Far from stimulating the regeneration of the area, a supercasino in east Manchester could create a rise in debt, gambling addicts, crime, debt and homelessness. Recent research from Australia suggests that relaxing gambling laws has led to an increase in homelessness, problem gambling and other social problems.

"The council talks about it bringing jobs and tourism but regeneration is not to be welcomed at any cost."

Meanwhile, Anthea Cox, Co-ordinating Secretary for Public Life and Social Justice at the Methodist Church, has called for a proper three-year evaluation period to be set by the Government to assess the impact of the large casino on the local community.

While the Methodist Church expressed its relief that the Government had allowed only one regional casino, Ms Cox said that big property benefits from the supercasino were "dubious".

She called instead for the Government evaluation to assess not only the positive but also the negative effects.

"We want to make sure the full range of that impact is measured," she told Christian Today.

Ms Cox also called on the Government to use money made through the supercasino to address some of the potentially negative social and economic effects, which include an increase in gambling addictions and excessive personal debt.

"There needs to be investment in addressing those issues, and as there are going to be some people in the gambling industry and in the Government making some very large profits from this announcement [of the Manchester supercasino], some of this has to be ploughed back into dealing with the problems that will cause," she said.