Giant casino still on cards - even if people don't want it

Monday 18th January 2021

But he told the Daily Echo yesterday he did not know if the results of such a survey would be "binding'' on the council.

Even if there were "overwhelming objections'' to a casino, the councillor would say only that he would "have to take that into consideration'' when deciding whether to allow a development to go ahead. Cllr Smith, who is the council's executive member for economic development and regeneration, added: "Committing ourselves further is difficult. We need to look at how the results come out and these will be fed into the whole mixing pot.

"We want to test public opinion in a meaningful way, but I don't know what mechanism we'll use and I don't know if it will be binding.'' The admission appeared at odds with comments made by Cllr Smith before last year's local elections, when he committed the then Tory opposition to follow the will of the people in the event of a "significant'' majority expressing a particular view in an opinion poll.

He said at the time: "If we have a significant vote either way we would support that.'' The proposal to license a "large'' casino in Southampton with up to 150 slot machines and £4,000 jackpots has divided the city, with some MPs and councillors coming out in favour and other public figures - including church leaders - bitterly opposed. The new premises, measuring up to 1,500 sq m, would dwarf existing casinos and critics have warned that any regeneration benefits would be outweighed by potential gambling problems.

Following Prime Minister Gordon Brown's decision to shelve a proposal for a giant, Las Vegas-style supercasino in Manchester last summer, Southampton City Council told the Government it was still interested in receiving a licence for one of the eight "large'' venues across the country.

Ministers are expected to give the green light to eight large and eight small casinos in the next few weeks.

Romsey MP Sandra Gidley, who opposes the Southampton casino plans, called on the council to make its intentions clearer.

The Lib Dem MP said: "They seem to be paying lip-service to public consultation when they need to be clear about their position and whether they are actually going to take notice of public opinion.''

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