he total of 285 is almost double the cap of 150 set by the Government when introducing new gambling legislation in January 2005. Culture Minister Richard Caborn told MPs during a line-by-line debate on the Gambling Bill: "We can say with certainty that there will be no more than 150 casinos."
But operators have sidestepped this limit by lodging applications before the laws came into force last September. The figures on applications emerged in a written answer published by Culture Minister Gerry Sutcliffe.
Gordon Brown, who has blocked plans for a super-casino in Manchester, has ordered a review into the 16 regional casinos - raising hopes he will kill off the gambling free-for-all championed by his predecessor Tony Blair.
But Culture Secretary Andy Burnham is set to give the regional casinos the go-ahead - possibly as early as this week. The number of existing casinos has already risen by 24 per cent since Labour came to power, from 116 in 1997 to 144 in January.
Don Foster, Lib Dem culture spokesman, said: "The Government assured MPs there was no desire for a gambling free-for-all and that the new laws would significantly reduce the number of new casinos. Instead, ministers have spent months messing everyone concerned around over these new casinos while turning a blind eye to an explosion in the number of casinos just around the corner.”
"This is not a question about the rights or wrongs of gambling. It is about the Government’s complete failure to accurately predict the number of casinos we would end up with following its gambling reforms," Dem added.
Tory culture spokesman Jeremy Hunt said: "The Government’s record on gambling consists of broken promises and inconsistency. This latest development shows that their policy is in total disarray. Gordon Brown claimed to care about gambling addiction when he cancelled the super-casino but in reality he was allowing nearly a hundred smaller casinos in through the back door. This is a shocking betrayal for the many organisations fighting to stop the growth of gambling addiction."
Casino applicants must receive a certificate of consent from the Gambling Commission and approval from local magistrates. The Gambling Commission says it is dealing with 78 casino applications, rather than 125, because some will have been withdrawn.
A Culture Department spokesman said: "Any new casino that opens will be required to abide by strict new rules to protect children and other vulnerable people. There is no guarantee that all the outstanding applications under the old legislation will be granted or will result in a new casinos opening."