One-Armed Bandit Threat to the Great British Pub

Article excerpt

Byline: GRAEME WILSON

LAWS which will make it easier for landlords to have slot machines could destroy the traditional pub, Ministers were warned last night.

Some locals could be turned into glorified amusement arcades, said one MP.

And the Archbishop of Canterbury called instead for more regulations to stop children being sucked into gambling.

At present, publicans have to apply to magistrates for a separate permit for each gaming machine.

But under official proposals unveiled yesterday, every pub will automatically be allowed to have two machines and need only apply to the local council for a licence for any more.

The plans are part of Labour's drive to shake up the gambling laws and give the green light to huge Las Vegasstyle casinos across the UK.

Ministers were urged, however, to make sure the new rules do not lead to a gambling free-for-all in pubs.

Liberal Democrat Don Foster warned about Australia's experience when it lifted restrictions on fruit machines in bars - and triggered an explosion in gambling addiction.

'We do not want to see a big increase in the number of gaming machines in pubs, not least because many pubs allow children on the premises,' he said.

'It would also ruin the traditional British pub if it were turned into some sort of amusement arcade.' His fears were echoed by Shadow Culture Secretary Julie Kirkbride. 'We must ensure that whatever changes are made, we retain the essential character of the traditional British pub,' she said. The Archbishop, Dr Rowan Williams, criticised the 'very limited consideration of the overall impact on areas where gambling is a major draw'. …