Vice?

On Monday evening I undertook my regular role as vice-chairman of the local council’s Licensing Committee. We had two important issues to discuss, both of which are capable of generating strong feelings. These were: should we as a Council permit the opening of a casino in this borough, and should we relax our policy of prohibiting sex establishments?

I have been to several casinos and have found that they fall into 2 categories. Firstly there are the glamorous ones such as Monte Carlo, Deauville and some London casinos which would not look out of place in a James Bond film. They cater to the very wealthy – the “high rollers” who can afford to risk large amounts of money. You will usually find a fascinating collections of Lamborghinis, Bugattis, Ferraris and other luxury cars outside these places. I would not object if one were to be opened here, but frankly I doubt we would see one. Elmbridge is too close to London, where this type of gambler is well catered for.

In the other type, one sees those for whom gambling is a curse. The  dead-eyed souls feeding bucket loads of coins into slot machines. The blackjack and roulette addicts risking money they and their families cannot afford to lose chasing the thrill of that big win which they are sure is coming on the next deal. This is the sort of place we would find being opened in this area and that is why I voted to keep our policy as it is. Casinos such as this do not contribute to the economy of the neighbourhood. Go to Lake Tahoe, on the California / Nevada border. The shops and restaurants on the California side gain no benefit from the casinos lined up on the Nevada side of the state line as these places offer cheap rooms, cheap drinks and cheap restaurants designed deliberately to keep the gambler in the building.   

Our policy of a blanket ban on sex establishments (such as adult shops and sex cinemas) is not in accordance with current case law and therefore we had to amend it. Now, any application to open such a business will be dealt with by a sub-committee of local councillors and this seems to be the right answer to me. I have no objection in principle to these places. I have no idea whether there would be a call for them in Elmbridge and have no idea where one might be sited, except to say they should not be near schools or children’s playgrounds.

Indeed there are already Ann Summers shops in Epsom and Kingston and in many ways it is hard to see where the precise dividing line between Ann Summers and a sex establishment lies. Having said that, I do not anticipate a flood of applications to open shops, cinemas or table dancing clubs arriving on our desks. We are simply ensuring that our rules are line with the law as it currently stands.

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