Members of Hastings Borough Council (HBC) spent time debating whether or not it’s gambling policy should have a ‘no casino’ clause when they met on Wednesday night even though government legislation says there could never be a casino opened in Hastings.
Several members spoke on the subject before it was brought to the council’s attention that the 2005 Gambling Act passed by Tony Blair’s government ruled that casinos could only be built in ‘designated’ areas and Hastings was not a designated area an it would therefore require a change in national legislation to allow a casino to open in the town.
HBC is required to review is gambling policy every three years and the proposed new policy, which had already been approved by the council’s cabinet but which required the full council to ratify that decision, was up for debate at Wednesday’s meeting. While all 31 members of the council who were present were happy with the policy in general the bone of contention was whether or not to retain a ‘no casino policy’ which had been a feature of the council’s previous policy document.
Councillor John Rankin felt it was wrong to put a blanket ban on casinos saying that a casino in Hastings could be a major tourist attraction and bring many jobs and significant economic benefit to the town. He felt it wasn’t right to say to the outside world there was an outright ban, he felt any proposal that might be made in the future should be examined on its own merits by the council which would ultimately be responsible for licensing any such development.
But Councillor Warren Davies said a casino could cause add to the stigma about what type of tourist attraction the council wanted Hastings to become. He said Hastings was trying to brand itself as a ‘new kind’ of seaside town and told his colleagues a casino was “counter to all we are trying to achieve.”
Several other councillors went on to give their views on the issue. Concerns centred around whether a potential casino in town would add to the problems of deprivation by encouraging people to gamble.
But it was Councillor Andy Patmore who brought the meetings attention to the 2005 Gambling act, telling members: “Under the legislation we’re not allowed to have casinos here so a ‘no casino policy’ is pointless. You are only allowed to have a casino in a designated area and Hastings is not one of the designated areas so to have a casino here would mean a change to government legislation.”
It still went to a vote though with an overwhelming majority of members voting in favour of the ‘no casino policy’. The overall gambling policy was approved unanimously by the full council.