rose to move, That the draft regulations laid before the House on 11 June be approved.
The noble Lord said: My Lords, these are three statutory instruments of several that the Government are publishing in preparation for the implementation of the Gambling Act 2005 from 1 September 2007.
We are making good progress. The draft measures take us a step closer to establishing a comprehensive new regulatory regime for the gambling industry which, for the first time, places the protection of children and other vulnerable people at its heart, while ensuring that responsible operators have the flexibility to remain profitable. The instruments have been drafted with the licensing objectives of the Gambling Act 2005 in mind, and those are worth repeating here. They are to keep gambling crime-free, to ensure that gambling is conducted in a fair and open way, and to protect children and the vulnerable. The three provisions deal with gaming machines, lottery machines and operating licence conditions. All three have, over the past year, been the subject of consultation with the statutory regulator, the Gambling Commission, key stakeholders from industry and organisations with an interest in problem gambling.
The Categories of Gaming Machine Regulations define four classes of gaming machine, to be known as categories A, B, C and D. As required by the Act, the regulations also subdivide category B machines into five subcategories and make it clear, where there is a reference to category B machines in the Act, to which of those subcategories it shall be treated as referring. The new categories are defined in the draft regulations primarily by the maximum stake and prize that they may offer. That approach has worked well in the past and is well understood in the industry, and the Government continue to believe that it forms a sound basis for future policy. The proposed stake and prize levels take their cue from the hierarchy of gaming machines suggested by the Act. The Act determines which type of premises may make the different categories of gaming machine available for use depending on the nature and degree of regulation of the premises, whether the premises are established primarily for gambling, and the age of potential visitors to the premises.
Broadly speaking, the stake and prize limits proposed here replicate those which the Government proposed alongside the draft Gambling Bill in November 2004 and which have already been implemented over the past two years under existing legislation. The Government have committed to review the stake and prize levels proposed here in 2009.
Category A machines, with unlimited stakes and prizes, will be allowed only in the one regional casino permitted by the Act. The machines are new to this country, and it is right to take a cautious approach to their introduction. The Government made a clear commitment that we would not consider allowing other casinos to offer the machines until a proper assessment of their impact on problem gambling, based on the experience in the regional casino, had been undertaken, and that remains our firm intention.
Category B machines may be sited in a variety of premises, including casinos, betting offices, bingo halls and adult-only arcades, as well as members’ clubs and miners’ welfare institutes. Stake and prize limits will range from £2 stakes and £4,000 prize money in casinos, which are subject to the highest level of regulation, to £1 stakes and £250 prize money in snooker and other commercial clubs which are established for purposes other than gambling. Category B includes what have become known as fixed-odds betting terminals in bookmakers and are also permitted in casinos, which will have a maximum stake of £100 and a maximum prize of £500. Those machines are relatively new to the British market, and they will be regulated as gaming machines for the first time from 1 September. The Government will continue to keep the machines under close scrutiny and, if it becomes clear that they are becoming a particular source of problem gambling, we have powers in the Act to control them, which we will not hesitate to use.
Category C machines, which will be permitted in pubs and in the adult-only areas of seaside arcades, will have a maximum stake of 50p and prize of £35. Category D machines will be the only machines which children will be permitted to play. They include crane grabs and penny falls, which it is generally accepted cause no harm to children, and the lowest stake and prize fruit machines, commonly found at seaside arcades and travelling fairs. It is because children are permitted to play those machines that we have proposed to reduce the maximum stake on all cash category D machines from 30p currently to 10p from 1 September.
I understand the concern of noble Lords on all sides of the House about the potential impact of allowing children to play gaming machines of any kind, which was the subject of considerable debate during the passage of the Bill through Parliament. The Government made it clear during the passage of the Bill that they did not believe that there was sufficient evidence to justify a ban at this stage. However, we will watch things carefully after 1 September. The Government have a reserve power to make it an offence for a child or young person below a specified age to use a category D machine, and there will be no hesitation in using that power if the evidence justifies it.
It is also important to note that the regulations are just one part of the range of measures that are being put in place to ensure that players of gaming machines are properly protected. For the first time, it will be a specific criminal offence to permit a child to use gaming machines, other than category D machines. The Government have already prevented any further applications for gaming machines in takeaway food shops, taxi offices and other non-gambling premises. That will see the removal of such opportunities for ambient gambling in some 6,000 premises by 2009. Following extensive consultation with the industry and with problem gambling groups, the Government will shortly introduce regulations under Section 240, which will control key aspects of how gaming machines are used. They will include new requirements for machines to display information about where customers can get help and support for gambling problems and limits on how much money may be deposited in a machine.
The regulations will be complemented by the Gambling Commission’s technical standards for manufacture, which will limit speed of play and ensure that machines offered in this country will meet the strictest international standards. The Gambling Commission will also ensure that all gambling operators have in place procedures and policies to ensure proper supervision of machines, and to identify and support problem gamblers. Taken together, this will mean that we have in place one of the most robust systems of regulation for gaming machines anywhere in the world.
On the second instrument, the definition of a gaming machine included in the Act is deliberately wide. One exemption from the definition is made for machines that dispense a lottery ticket or otherwise allow a person to enter a lottery. The order specifies the minimum amount of time that must lapse between the purchase of a lottery ticket from a machine and the announcement of the result by the machine, if it is to be exempted. If no minimum time lag were imposed, there is a risk that operators would develop machines that enabled customers to enter a virtual lottery which, to the player, would be all but indistinguishable from a gaming machine.
That is exactly what has happened under the existing legislation. Manufacturers have developed lottery machines for members’ clubs which bear all the characteristics of gaming machines, with none of the protections, and which have been able to offer prizes as large as £2,000. Only gaming machines in casinos are permitted to offer prizes at that level. This is an abuse, and a one-hour interval will ensure that this cannot happen again in the future, while allowing charities and other good causes for the first time to raise more funds by selling tickets by machine.
Finally, while there should be no apology for forcing the removal of lottery machines from clubs, the Government recognise that the machines have offered an important source of revenue for working men’s clubs and miners’ welfare institutes. To assist clubs in that position, we have proposed to introduce, with their support, the new category B3A gaming machine included in the Categories of Gaming Machine Regulations.
The Gambling Act 2005 (Operating Licence Conditions) Regulations 2007 impose mandatory operating licence conditions on casinos and bingo halls. In the case of casinos, the regulations deal with another form of equipment exempted from the gaming machine definition: wholly automated gaming tables. The regulations require that a minimum of four player positions be offered for each wholly automated gaming table. Wholly automated roulette is typical of this sort of game. A real roulette wheel spins automatically at regular intervals and is connected to electronic terminals on which customers place their bets. Wholly automated gaming tables were granted an exemption from the general gaming machine definition included in the Act, because the Government accepted that this equipment, which may be provided only in casinos—I emphasise that—merely provided an automated means of playing a real casino game.
These games will be regulated along broadly similar lines to the real version of the game: they will not be subject to any statutory stake and prize limits, the equipment must comply with strict technical specifications which the Gambling Commission will set, and operators must have in place strict monitoring policies and procedures to ensure that customers are protected. The proposal to require a minimum number of player positions is needed to prevent the development of wholly automated casino games for one or very few people, which would be indistinguishable from unlimited stake and prize gaming machines. This would risk undermining the justification for exempting this equipment from the gaming machine definition in the first place.
The regulations would impose monetary limits on any prize gaming that bingo halls wished to offer, unless it was prize bingo. Prize bingo is not subject to these controls because bingo halls will be able to offer all types of bingo under the new Act without monetary limits. Therefore, these regulations concern only prize games of other sorts played on bingo premises. Prize gaming is one of the less known and less used permissions under the Gambling Act 2005. Prize gaming was originally permitted in bingo halls as a low-stake form of amusement between what is known in the industry as main game bingo. The Government are determined that this form of gaming should remain at a low level.
The strict monetary limits in the current legislation have worked well in terms of controlling any potential harmful effects, and the new limits that we propose will ensure that these safeguards are maintained. During consultations, the Government listened carefully to representations from the Bingo Association that some differential treatment may be possible for adult-only premises offering prize gaming, without prejudicing the intention that prize gaming must remain at a low level. We have therefore decided to allow bingo halls, but strictly only those which do not allow under-18s to enter the premises, to offer a maximum cash prize of £50, which is double the present level. Separate regulations will impose limits on prize gaming in arcades and other venues permitted to offer this form of gaming.
I commend all three statutory instruments to the House. I beg to move.
Moved, That the draft regulations laid before the House on 11 June be approved. 20th Report from the Statutory Instruments Committee.—(Lord Davies of Oldham.)
My Lords, I commence with four expressions of regret. The first is to the noble Lord, Lord Davies, personally, because the poor noble Lord has already had enough of me for one day before he entered into this Chamber tonight. That he should get a second instalment this evening is a matter of regret. Secondly, I regret that this debate coincides precisely with the annual dinner of the all-party racing committee, which has rather depleted the resources of those who know much about the subject and who might otherwise have been here, instead of giving preference to their dinner. Thirdly, I regret that I made a mistake in declaring my personal interests in the Grand Committee last week, because it has been pointed out by a hawk-eyed analyst that I forgot to mention that I undertook the initial valuation of the value of the Tote on behalf of the Jockey Club. I apologise for that omission. My final regret is that we are not having an opportunity to debate all six instruments relating to the Gambling Act 2005 as an entity, because they hang together as one package. Taking them separately diminishes the strength of our argument.
In Grand Committee, we had a clear view that we were talking about instruments that had two primary purposes. The first was to overcome the problems that would result during Recess in the event that the Gambling Act came into force, because at the moment there is no legitimacy beyond 1 or 3 September for the continuity of the Tote, unless its licence to trade as an exclusive pool-betting arrangement is allowed to continue. Secondly, the levy must be reinstated if it is to have any means of supporting the economic vitality of racing in this country. We recognise that racing carries a total employment of between 150,000 and 200,000 people, and is therefore vital to the rural communities of this country.
The instruments before this House simply do not do the job and they are not, as they stand, a package which will do what the Government believe, expect and want of them.
My Lords, the noble Lord spoke on the order and regulations for something like 15 minutes in Grand Committee. I have a proposition to put to him. If he does not repeat his speech, I shall not repeat mine. At the moment, he appears to be speaking about something quite different which is nothing to do with these instruments—the Tote. But if he proposes to repeat what he said last week, when I thought that he talked himself out, would that not be a great pity?
My Lords, I appreciate the noble Lord’s comment. However, I have read the Hansard account of what was said last week and I found a number of major errors committed by all of us—myself included. It would be welcome if they were corrected, because they go to the core of what is to happen.
I am not here to talk about the Tote. I have tried to exclude myself from that altogether, but one or two comments were made in error last week. Two of them relate to the Tote. The first—
My Lords, the noble Lord emphasises the point that concerns me, which is that the instruments should have been taken as an entity to allow them all to be interrelated. However, I shall take the admonition that we should not now refer to the Tote at all. However, let us deal with my concerns on the instruments as they stand. First, I do not believe that they do the job expected of them by the DCMS in this instance. The repeat capacity of the ability of anyone playing a FOBT—a fixed-odds betting terminal—to increase the value of his stake by the repeated pressure of one touch pad has not been addressed by any statement to show how that will be controlled to fulfil what the instrument actually states.
Secondly, the statements that have been given in response to the Merits Committee on the control of so-called cartoon racing have not brought them within a clear definition of a FOBT, because there is still no explanation as to how that overcomes the fact that the race itself is separated from the betting medium. That is an outrageous means by which the bookmaker is able to control not only, perhaps, the outcome, but the value of the price returned for any horse deemed to be the winner. I do not accept the assurances given in written answers to the Merits Committee that a process is in place to police that. I would want to see the DCMS insisting upon and obtaining audited information to show that there is a systems audit that demonstrates the fairness of that system. It is not a FOBT, because there will always be a separation of betting from the screen. I cannot accept that there is a weighting of prices derived on the prices being offered from the money being bet on the screen, because I do not see that that is how the betting takes place. That issue is very serious.
My final point on these machines concerns the levy, which I hope I will be forgiven for mentioning, because it is an important part of this matter. All of this is part of a progressive downwards pressure on the process of bookmaker profit being taken into account for the calculation of the levy—certainly in response to the Donovan Commission. The Government have let the toothpaste out of the tube regarding the whole area of bookmakers’ control of what goes on in betting shops and this has taken the bookmakers’ claim of an appropriate levy down from the £110 million mark to around £90 million. They have done so by upturning what, over the years, has been a traditional arrangement under which all betting, of whatever type, was included in the levy calculation, including foreign betting. All that is out of the present equation and I believe that, as they reactivate the levy, the Government should be looking to return the levy calculation to the original basis on which it was formed some 20 years ago. Those are important points to which the Government should return.
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord James. I promised not to repeat my speech and I shall not do so. However, I hope that, in replying, the Minister will make it clear that the details of what was an agreement between the Association of British Bookmakers and the Government in 2004 will exist until 31 August this year and that, from 1 September, the Gambling Commission will control how fixed-odds betting terminals can operate. At that time, the Secretary of State made it clear that these terminals were on probation, and I hope that the Minister will make it clear in his reply that that is still the case.
My Lords, from the discussion that we have just heard, it is clear that there is more history to this matter than I had thought. Looking back to the passage of the Bill and the discussions leading up to it, which the Minister will remember only too well, some of the most contentious issues involving many different interests across the industry were machine categories, prize money and so on. Speaking for these Benches, with one or two exceptions, to which I shall come, I think that the Government have taken a relatively cautious approach to these orders and, in the circumstances, have put forward a reasonably balanced set of proposals.
I can well understand the slight frustration of the noble Lord, Lord James, at the orders being taken piecemeal. The Minister in the other place confirmed that another 14 orders are due to be tabled in the next month, so no doubt we will be in for a treat when we return in October. In a sense, it is to be regretted that all the drafting did not take place at the same time, and the Section 240 regulations, in particular, should be seen in that context.
In contrast to the noble Lord, Lord James, and like the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, I take some comfort from the assurances that have been given about the review of the operation of FOBTs by the Gambling Commission, which will take place in due course. As the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, confirmed, the Gambling Commission should be the body that carries out that review, and it needs a period of time to see how FOBTs are operating. The whole purpose of that part of the Bill was to bring FOBTs within a proper form of regulation, and that is one of the beneficial aspects of what is now the Act.
I also particularly welcome what the regulations have to say about category D machines, which we debated during the Committee and Report stages of the Bill. We were firmly of the view that this kind of very limited type of machine should be available and we are pleased to see that the regulations enshrine that in a limited form. I know that this is somewhat controversial and that the BCA does not necessarily welcome it but we are pleased with the proposals on wholly automated gaming tables and the minimum number of players set by the Government.
However, there are some aspects of the regulations on which I should like to press the Minister for further and better particulars. The issue of the B3A machines is extraordinary. Clearly, there was a considerable amount of to-ing and fro-ing on the consultation, but including a special category for working men’s clubs and members-only social clubs is somewhat extraordinary. I heard the Minister say that the proceeds go to charity and so on, but are these machines really that much safer without the interval in private clubs? In fact, children are more likely to be in private clubs than they are to be in commercial premises, so I am not sure that his arguments stand up.
On a more general point, is there sufficient time to reconfigure the machines by 1 September? I understand that some 300,000 machines may have to be reconfigured, and I should be interested to hear the Minister’s comments on that. After all, especially if we are to hear from Brussels about the interval point only at the end of August, the industry will have rather a short time in which to adjust to these regulations.
The fact that the Section 240 regulations will not be available until a few weeks’ time, when the cost of labelling has been estimated at some £3 million, also seems to put the industry at a disadvantage. We do not have a compliance cost assessment for a future set of regulations, but I should be very interested to hear whether the Minister agrees that the labelling process will cost some £3 million.
I turn to the subject of the operating licence conditions. No doubt the Minister read the debate in the other place on the report of the delegated powers sub-committee, but he will be only too aware of the problems facing the bingo industry, including the problem of prize-gaming levels. It voluntarily accepted the smoking ban but that will create some economic problems. Can the Minister envisage any review mechanism to raise the prizes which are being set in these regulations?
The Minister in the other place stonewalled, as he had to, being a spokesman for culture, media and sport, but I hope that the Treasury will read these proceedings because one big issue for the bingo industry is VAT on participation fees. That puts it at a disadvantage compared with almost every other section of the industry. We on these Benches would be extremely grateful if the Minister could comment on that.
With those exceptions, I think that the Government are putting forward a fair package of proposals.
My Lords, the last time the Minister and I debated gambling orders, I urged the House to support Her Majesty’s Government’s position. The result was that, only for the third time since the War, an order was overturned in the House of Lords.
I do not suppose that the same thing will happen today, although, in view of the Government’s increasingly sensible gambling policy, the best thing would be for these orders to be withdrawn to give time for yet more common sense to be introduced. In the mean time, there are important things in the orders that need to be addressed, as my noble friend Lord James of Blackheath pointed out during a recent debate and as the noble Lords, Lord Clement-Jones and Lord McIntosh, pointed out this evening.
I also urge the Minister to listen to what my honourable friends Anne Milton and John Greenway said in another place. They condemned the curious situation of existing casino licence holders being allowed only 20 gaming machines but new licence holders, subject to the number of tables, being permitted to have 80. Over two years ago, the justification given for this by Her Majesty's Government was the need to proceed cautiously. No one would quibble with that wish—indeed, we would support it—but it seems odd that casinos that have been in existence for some time, have been regulated and not found wanting, should not be given the same allocation as new and unproven arrivals to the industry. Existing licence holders may, of course, apply for the new licences, but that would be coincidental. The situation is still anomalous.
Earlier today, a Statement in another place pointed out that in September the Gambling Commission will publish the outcome of its prevalence study. I hope the Minister will look at that and, if necessary, react promptly to its findings rather than wait for the 2009 review.
My Lords, the contribution of the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, was quite selective about the needs of bingo halls, but he also raised questions about the needs of working men's clubs. It is not just about working men's clubs but also about Liberal clubs, Conservative clubs and all kinds of clubs that are private members’ clubs which will be helped by these regulations. I hope that the House recognises that over the past few years working men's clubs have suffered considerably, very often because of legislation passed here and in the other place, and which is now on the statute book. That has caused considerable difficulties for working men's clubs and other clubs. This is an attempt to help clubs to get through what is a very difficult trading period. Throughout the country, we have seen many clubs close because of the great difficulty, in today's competitive climate, of meeting the needs of their members.
I repeat that such clubs are private members' clubs and mention was made of children playing on the machines. In such clubs, children are well supervised and the clubs are well structured and well run. It is the responsibility of committee men and women in all such institutions to ensure that children do not take advantage of what happens in other areas; for example, in bingo halls where abuse does take place. I urge the House to support the regulations because we will be giving working men’s clubs a useful uplift at a time when they are in desperate need of the help that we can give them by passing these regulations.
My Lords, perhaps the House will forgive me if I start at the end. I am grateful to my noble friend for putting forward a constructive perspective with regard to clubs. I am also grateful to him for reminding the House that we are talking about all private clubs—Conservative and Liberal clubs as well as working men’s clubs and miners’ clubs. He was right to emphasise that the lift given will affect all clubs; they will benefit from the new regulations.
I understand the point made by the noble Lord, Lord James. He would have preferred us to take all six instruments together. As the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, hinted, we have many more regulations to put before the House to implement the very complex Gambling Act. These regulations are being prepared against the background of the Act coming into force on 1 September.
I have no doubt that the noble Lord, Lord James, will be able to draw a skein of consistent thought through all the instruments and would wish to debate them all. Their management is quite difficult, particularly as there are more likely to be divisions on instruments in another place rather than here. Consequently, putting so many together would raise very real problems. We have tried to group them together under the subject matters that they cover.
As the noble Lord exemplified last week, the issue of the gaming machines in bookmakers has a potential impact on the levy. I understand his point on that but we hope it will be limited. Those gaming machines are not quite as extensive in their impact as he suggested. I hope he will forgive me for not retracing the whole debate that we had last week on those three orders. I am not sure I would win many friends in the House if I did that.
The noble Lord, Lord James, emphasised one dimension, which is cartoon racing. We have no evidence at the moment that that is a problem, and I assure the House that the Gambling Commission has the powers to act if it becomes clear that it is one. Of course, the Government have set out to legislate as comprehensively and as accurately as possible. These instruments are designed precisely to tackle certain aspects and to give effect, in detail, to the legislation that we passed two years ago. However, it will also be appreciated that there may be areas that we have not covered with sufficient rigour.
The noble Lord, Lord James, was keen to emphasise that some developments in gambling show ingenuity that surpasses even legislators who try to conceive of problems. The only reassurance I can give him—it is a real reassurance—is that the Gambling Commission has the powers to act when it identifies an issue. It has been set up within the framework of an Act and it operates against an Act whose prime objective is the protection of vulnerable people—children—from gambling, but it is expected that there will be some abuses. Techniques and technologies will be developed that have not yet been identified. If they become an abuse, the Gambling Commission has the power to act and will not hesitate to do so. We have a broad framework of legislation and the right instruments to guarantee that, however ingenious and fertile the minds are of those who want to separate gamblers from their money, the Gambling Commission is in a position to respond to that positively.
The noble Lord, Lord James, also said that there is no control over the maximum stake on category B2 machines, but there is. There is a £100 limit and no scope to breach that limit. I hear what he says about the punter getting round that, as can those offering the machines as regards the frequency with which the bets are laid. We shall ensure, with other regulations, that a stake up to that maximum may be made only in tranches of up to £10. We have a regulation in mind that will control the amount a punter is likely to apply. The noble Lord will have a chance to look at the regulations when they come before the House in due course. I assure him that the Government have anticipated potential developments in this area and identified one or two to which we shall respond.
I can reassure my noble friend Lord McIntosh, who has had to leave the Chamber. I know it is the custom of the House not to reply to someone who is not present, but my noble friend had immense responsibility for the Gambling Act and he is an authority in this House. Therefore, when he raises questions I take them very seriously, even if he will only see the answers in Hansard tomorrow. I emphasise to him that the voluntary code certainly applies up to 31 August. From 1 September, the Gambling Act will be in place of the voluntary code so that we move into full legislative rigour at that time. He also asked whether fixed-odds betting terminals were on probation and whether there were issues with them. Certainly so; we are aware that they potentially present a real problem. If it becomes clear that there are abuses, we will not hesitate to act. The noble Lord, Lord James, has done the House a service. He is not the only one. During the passage of the Gambling Act we had discussions on these issues. Certain aspects of fixed-odds betting raise these problems, and he is quite right to emphasise them as he did last time we met on statutory instruments. I assure him that we expect the Gambling Commission to act if problems become acute.
The noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, lamented the delay in laying Section 240 regulations and the uncertainty for operators. The regulations are being finalised, following extensive consultation with the industry. The overwhelming majority of existing machines are not going to require a great deal of adaptation to be fully compliant with Section 240. It is possible to exaggerate the difficulty for the industry but, where some adaptation is necessary to comply with the regulations, we are building in lead times which the industry has on the whole accepted. We ought not to be too anxious about that.
The noble Lord also raised the question of the B3A machines, the special category for clubs. The whole point about the special category B3A is borne in mind in the contribution of my noble friend Lord Bilston, which mirrors representation we have received from across the country. We want to enable clubs legitimately to raise funds, while removing what were effectively unregulated gaming machines which could have prizes as large as £2,000. That gives rise to risk because, as has been freely acknowledged in the House this evening, such clubs have wide access for the public, including children, so it is right that we address those issues.
On the broader issue of the bingo industry, I recognise the representations. The noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, emphasised his anxieties. We have already allowed bingo clubs to play prize bingo without limit from 1 September. On the other limits, there will be review opportunities in due course, so I assure him that we will watch the position. Of course, the bingo industry has a substantial record and history of giving broad and innocent amusement to large numbers of our fellow citizens. As long as it is within bounds—again, there is a great deal of open access to bingo—and operates within the regulations that we have established, it will continue to be a benign form of entertainment.
Bingo halls are, of course, freed of some regulations. They are no longer required to operate as members’ clubs. We have doubled the maximum stake permitted in the jackpot gaming machines in bingo halls up to £1 from 1 August. We are allowing rollovers so that there is potential for higher prizes. Of course, the 24-hour rule has gone, so you can join a bingo club without having to wait for what people always assure me is an interminable 24 hours. We were always told that was an enormous deterrent because people only went to bingo halls on the expectation of instant gratification that very evening. That being so, we have remedied that grievance as identified.
The noble Lord, Lord Howard of Rising, gave his broad support, as did the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, on the Liberal Democrat Front Bench. I am grateful for that. I bear in mind that the last time the noble Lord, Lord Howard, gave the Government his wholehearted support—on the regional casinos—we did not do so well. That story still runs, and I indicate to the House that there has been a statement on the question of regeneration other than regional casino-driven regeneration possibilities. We will debate that within a different framework.
I shall resist the noble Lord, Lord Howard, drawing me anywhere near Treasury matters. I have enough problems dealing with the Treasury when the issue is quite specific to that august institution. This evening, I am speaking on behalf of the DCMS, and sufficient unto the day is that particular burden thereof.
We have doubled the number of gaming machines to which existing casinos are entitled from 10 to 20. Existing operators will of course be free to apply for the new licences created by this Act. They have not been discriminated against, but feel the hot breath of competition from potential new casinos. A large number of existing casinos have fared tolerably well in recent years, and we have no reason to expect them to do anything but prosper within the strict regulations of the Act. I reiterate that the Act has the prime purposes of, first, creating an environment of regulation which we have not had since the 1960s—the Act was hopelessly out of date on new developments—and, secondly, to guarantee that gambling is carried out with proper regard to the protection of children and vulnerable adults, to keep gambling as an enjoyable pursuit which does not do social harm.
On Question, Motion agreed to.