UK Prime Minister Tony Blair has defended plans for a massive shake-up of gambling laws, saying that the vast majority of the changes were aimed at improved regulation and protecting children from gambling.
Mr Blair said 90% of the Gambling Bill published last week was about “better regulation”.
It also paved the way for huge new leisure complexes with Las Vegas-style casinos.
“When this measure goes through, in a few years’ time people will be asking what all the fuss was about,” he said.
“It is very important that we modernise the regulation of gambling for today’s world. Ninety per cent of the Gambling Bill is actually about better regulation, better protection for children, removing slot machines from around 6,000 premises where children might get access to it.
“And in return for that we are giving the power to local authorities to grant planning permission for these larger leisure complexes, including casinos, which will probably add around about 20 to 40 casinos to the 120 that there already are in this country,” he said.
Speaking at his monthly Downing Street press conference Mr Blair said a key aim of the legislation was to keep organised crime out of gambling.
He said the idea that the new casinos would cause problems when gambling was already allowed in Britain was “very far-fetched”.
The Conservatives said they would vote against the reforms. Shadow culture minister John Whittingdale said the Bill opened the door to a wave of US super casinos.
“This is far removed from the original suggestion of a small number of destination casinos in seaside resorts,” he said.
“The Government said the aim of the Bill was to protect children and the vulnerable. We shall oppose the Bill because, as it stands, it clearly does not achieve this.”