Members open to re-examining casino ban
Isles of Scilly Councillors have indicated that they are open to the possibility of re-examining the islands' casino ban in the future.
Licensing authorities are given the power to resolve not to issue casino premises licences in their area every three years. The Council has made such a resolution every three years since 2005.
In the January 15th meeting, Cllr Ted Moulson suggested that rather than agree another blanket ban, it may be worth re-examining the policy because of its future revenue potential.
He said: "I’ve thought long and hard about this and there are many, many authorities up and down the land that have gone down the route of looking at their no Casino policies and there are several of them that ended up with very, very lucrative lease arrangements and licensing arrangements for casinos.
"I’m not proposing that we scrap the no casino arrangement but I wonder whether it might be appropriate for this authority to re-examine where we stand with it on the grounds that we are cash-strapped, we’ve been cash-strapped for a number of years and we are likely to be going forward and whether this may be - and I only say may be - a way forward of raising revenue for the authority."
Cllr Steve Sims said he personally does not believe casinos "should be allowed on the planet", but agreed the idea should not be dismissed out of hand.
Cllr Steve Watt said: "I went to the Local Government Association Conference on licensing a year ago and I was amazed at the number of authorities that regretted they had casinos in their district, so although I do appreciate Cllr Moulson’s comment that we should re-examine it, because I can see a virtue in examining everything as a continual process, I still am absolutely convinced that we should not have casinos in Scilly, even floating ones, which has been proposed in the past."
Cllr Joel Williams said: "At the Health and Wellbeing Board we rightly talk a lot about smoking addition, alcohol addiction and substance addiction and obviously gambling can be an addiction too. I think a degree of this is academic. If people want to gamble they can do it legally online, effortlessly. So regardless of whether we have a physical casino within our boundaries or not, gambling isn’t going to go away.
"So I think as part of the Health & Wellbeing Board we can initiate some further conversations around gambling. I guess the wider question for me is if we were to have a casino that raised revenue, would we welcome what could be immoral income coming into the authority? Where do we draw the line in terms of our principles? In principle I don’t have any objection to looking into more detail but I think to support individuals over here who do have unhealthy gambling habits we as a local authority through the Health & Wellbeing Board can possibly do some further work."
Cllr Moulson said: "Whilst I recognise exactly what Cllr Williams has just said, I am not proposing [we allow casinos] for one minute. All I am suggesting is that we revisit it with a view to taking a decision sometime in the future rather than just a blanket ban on it now."
He jokingly added: "So there may be a possibility that we could stick one on Bryher for instance, you never know."
Cllr Marian Berkeley said she had a schoolfriend whose father was addicted to gambling and it "ended up in the total ruin of that family with the sale of the house and the misery of wife and children". She added: "I would do nothing to support this."
Cllr Watt then reminded her of something she said in a Tourism meeting 40 years ago, which he remembered distinctly - "one of the best values of tourism in Scilly is what we don’t have not what we do have."
Cllr Dan Marcus said: "I think we have to be careful when we talk about immoral earnings that we do make money out of alcohol licensing so I don’t think we can actually make that particular distinction."
The last casino ban was passed on December 8th 2015, with Members at the time saying that a casino did not "add to the ethos of the islands as a family tourist destination".
Members finally passed the 'no casino' resolution, which will stand for the next three years. However, Democratic Services Officer Andy Thomas pointed out that the Council can issue a counter-resolution if it changes its mind within the set period.
He added: "I wasn’t expecting this conversation when I woke up this morning, I have to say. The door is always open but this [ban] will lapse after three years again anyway."