A commitment to keep Hastings as a casino-free town has been reaffirmed by borough councillors at a meeting this week.
It was agreed maintain the town’s ‘No Casino’ resolution for another three years as part of its regular gambling policy review on Wednesday night.
While supported by the majority of councillors, some Conservative members argued in favour of lifting the resolution as they felt a casino could benefit the town.
They included Cllr John Rankin (Con. – Conquest), who said: “As the son of someone who used to be a bookmaker before you could bet on the high street, I know what damage gambling can do to a person. It needs to be very tightly regulated.
“[But] I can’t quite work out the thinking behind the No Casino policy because Hastings Borough Council are the licensing authority as well.
“If a private casino operator wanted to come to Hastings and we had a casino in the town, it would bring a lot of jobs in a very labour intensive industry. It would bring a lot of prosperity, a lot of growth and all those economic benefits.
“I don’t see the point of saying to the outside world, ‘you can’t bring a casino to Hastings’. I think it is limiting opportunities and frankly – if it is properly regulated – a casino can bring more benefit, especially to a tourist town.”
Cllr Rankin’s argument was backed by several other Conservative councillors. They included Cllr Andy Patmore (Maze Hill), who argued the resolution was ‘pointless’ as government legislation already prevents a casino coming to the town.
However the Conservative group’s views were split on the issue, with Cllr Matthew Beaver expressing unease with the proposals due to the potential impact of gambling addiction.
He said: “While casinos are indeed regulated, as they have to be, they are not out to help the community. They are a business out to help themselves.
“It is a business we do not want here in Hastings. This town – even with all the work being done by volunteers, social groups and the council – has enough problems at this moment in time.
“We do not want to fuel those problems by having a casino.”
Proposals to lift the resolution also failed to win the support of any of the council’s majority Labour group, who unanimously voted to maintain it.
Labour councillors highlighted their concerns around the potential social impact of bringing a casino to the town and its tourist economy.
They included Silverhill councillor Margi O’Callaghan, who said: “I worked in a casino for eight years and I’ve seen some horrible things.
“I’ve seen people lose their homes. I’ve seen relationships end. I’ve seen one man put his last £100 down and say ‘I’m going home to an empty house tonight because I have got nothing in there. I used to have a wife, I used to have children, I used to have furniture.’
“People are impoverished and looking for a way out. They are looking for that win to get them out, but it is not there.
“Leave the casinos to Las Vegas, it is not for Hastings.”
Following the debate, members voted in favour of maintaining the resolution by 22 votes to three.