British Casino Association challenges legality of casinos plan
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BCA represents the interests of more than 90% of existing British casinos
Lawyers representing the British Casino Association, which represents the interests of more than 90% of existing British casinos, also added that old, established operators would be forced out of business.
Michael Beloff QC, appearing for BCA and four of its member companies, said the policy "has created a disparity which is potentially seriously damaging to our legitimate commercial interests".
He said Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell had previously pledged that she would ensure "fair competition between old and new" and added: "Whether she deliberately abandoned that policy or not, she has created a situation in which existing casinos are condemned to second-class status."
The BCA is challenging the legality of a transitional order made under the 2005 Gambling Act which paved the way for 17 new casinos, including the first Las Vegas-style "super-casino". It is seeking a judicial review at a three-day hearing at London’s High Court before Justice Langstaff.
Lawyers for the Culture Secretary argue that the challenge "is without merit and should be dismissed". The legal action is being backed by four companies - Gala Casinos Ltd, Grosvenor Casinos Ltd, London Clubs International Ltd and Stanley Casinos Ltd - which between them operate 116 of the 138 existing casinos in Britain.
Beloff told the court the position of the Culture Secretary had changed so frequently and performed so many twists and turns that she "eventually misunderstood the reach of the powers which she enjoyed". At the same time she had failed to comply with her "duties of fair consultation".
Beloff referred to the plans for the first super-casino to be built in Manchester, which were voted down by the House of Lords, and are now subject to further consideration by the Government.
The QC said that issue was not before the court today. The BCA was seeking court orders to compel the Culture Secretary to reconsider that part of Government policy which posed such a serious and damaging threat to existing casinos.
Penny Cobham, BCA chairwoman, said in a recent statement: "We have consistently argued that existing casinos would be unfairly treated under the terms of the 2005 Act through its inherent inequality and incoherence. "The additional entitlements given to the 17 new casinos will seriously threaten many long-established businesses and jobs."
The House of Lords voted against plans to open the first 5,000 sqm super-casino in Manchester, but the Government says it plans to continue pressing on.