Opposing parties of development plans for a new casino complex in Belfast, Northern Ireland may not oblige to requests for a change of legislature by former Economy Minister, Sir Richard Needham.
European Gaming Business, The Rank Group, recently made a brave proposal for the development of a £25 million entertainment complex in Belfast that would include a casino, however the anti-gambling laws in the region prohibits this and may continue to do so.
Needham, a non-executive member of The Rank Group, has openly labeled the Social Development department’s opposition to scrapping current legislature as “puritanical nonsense”.
Northern Ireland has taken a conservative approach when it comes to casinos despite the popularity of horse racing, greyhound racing and poker in a country that also once produced 90% of the world’s whiskey.
Needham makes mention that a full casino complex, together with attractions such as bowling alleys and cinemas will provide a much needed economic boost to the region.
However, recently appointed Social Development Minister, Mervyn Storey, does not take the idea of allowing a casino in Northern Ireland lightly. He believes that a casino could make consumers vulnerable causing them to “lose large amounts of money – just on the single throw of a dice.”
Needham however, is still adamant on challenging the law. He wrote to the Belfast Telegraph urging local council to take action saying, “I urge the council, after proper consideration, to take advantage of the investment opportunity and to take the fight to the DSD, which controls the gambling laws of Northern Ireland.”
Despite the unemployment rate of Northern Ireland doubling in 2012/13, the 200 jobs that the Rank Group could offer locals in the Belfast region is not enough motivation to modify legislature.
Regardless of any “pro-gambling intentions” by the Rank Group or Sir Richard Needham, the balance between the two opposing parties in this argument is not even: The Department for Social Development has the final say. If Storey’s concerns are anything go by there is a slim chance for any casino developments in Northern Ireland occurring unless current legislature is equally opposed by other members of government.