_Attachment11_Public Minutes of the Overview and - Solihull by wulinqing




                                      26 OCTOBER 2007

     Present:      Councillor I Hedley (Chairman); Councillors N Davies, Mrs S Gomm, S Slater
                   (Substitute for T Hodgson), J Tildesley, L R Widger and Mrs K Wild

            Paul Watson, Strategic Director Community and Economic Regeneration
            Michael Blamire-Brown, Solicitor to the Council
            Lynda Hackwell, Head of Community and Economic Regeneration
            Rachel Westwood, Economic Regen Policy & Performance Manager
            Jon Ladd, Chief Executive, British Urban Regeneration Association
            Nigel Russell, Advantage West Midlands
            Jerry Blackett, Chief Executive,
            Birmingham & Solihull Chamber of Commerce & Industry
            Gavin Morrice, Licensing Manager
            Chief Supt. Scobbie, West Midlands Police
            Rev. Dr Peter Hatton, Solihull Faiths Forum
            Dr Issam Ghannam, Steering Group Member, Solihull Faiths Forum
            Mike Nuttall, Ladbrokes
            Clive Dutton OBE, Director of Planning & Regeneration Birmingham City Council
            Paul Thandi, John Hornby and Deborah Smith, NEC
     Supporting Officer:
            Roy Eaton, Senior Scrutiny Officer
            Roy Eaton, Senior Scrutiny Officer
     Apologies for absence were submitted by Councillors B Burgess, H Hendry and T Hodgson
     and Samantha Gilbert.

     None Submitted.

     All the evidence submitted as part of this review can be accessed through the Committee
     Administration (EGENDA) system and is available through the Council’s web site.

     Following a welcome and introduction by the Chairman, Paul Watson set the scene for the
     need for this Overview and Scrutiny event. It was noted that the Gambling Act was seen by
     many as providing a new opportunity to promote regeneration through development and
     renewal centred on new casinos of a scale never seen before in the UK. Following
     expressions of interest, the Casino Advisory Panel had found favour in the bid submitted by
     Solihull MBC for one of eight large casinos. Before the Government announced a review of
     policy in July this year, a Motion had been placed before Council in the following terms: -
     "This Council considers that a casino built at the NEC or indeed in any other part of the
     Borough will not be in the interests of the Borough and should therefore be resisted."


This Motion had been referred to this Board for consideration.
The Chairman then invited Michael Blamire-Brown, Solicitor to the Council to give an
overview of the process. He described the terms of the Gambling Act 2005, the role of the
Local Authority and the option of a Section 166 resolution, should the Council decide not to
issue further casino premises licences in the area.
In answer to a question, The Solicitor confirmed that as part of the process the new casino
development would require planning consent as a separate process prior to consideration of
the licensing issues.
Cllr Mrs K Wild entered the meeting at 9.43 am.
Cllr N Davies entered the meeting at 10.08 am.
The Board then received a presentation from Lynda Hackwell and Rachel Westwood giving
the background to this Council's submission to the Casino Advisory Panel. The key
messages from that submission were: -
      Partnership - support from Birmingham City Council
      Scale of regeneration impact - local, sub-regional and regional
      Part of a wider entertainment/ leisure development
      Opportunity to test social impact
      Central location, excellent connectivity
      Strength and depth in visitor economy
      Track record of delivering major developments
      Benefits beyond Solihull - Birmingham and West Midlands
The presentation described the characteristics of the area, the potential social impact, the
need for regeneration, willingness to licence, probability of implementation, regional and
local context, community benefits, the unique characteristics of the proposal and the support
offered by Advantage West Midlands.
The final report issued by the Casino Advisory Panel had made the following comments with
regard to the Solihull proposal: -
      Exceptional connectivity - road, rail and air
      Communities/ neighbourhoods subject to acute deprivation
      West Midlands Economic Strategy and Regional Spatial Strategy encourage tourism
       particularly at the NEC
      Support of Advantage West Midlands and West Midlands Regional assembly noted
      Experience in dealing with Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime & Disorder and Crowd
       Control at the NEC
      Commitment to monitor social problems
      Considerable experience of linking people to jobs - community benefits and tourism
       key sector
      Consistent with regional policy
      Market interest
      Support of Full Council and Birmingham City Council
      Regional significance - pivotal role of NEC
In answer to questions the following points were made: -


      The casino was part of a planned wider entertainment facility
      This was an opportunity to link in local businesses and generate a greater mass of
      The suggested creation of 900 jobs were directly related to the large casino, this did
       not take account of possible wider opportunities, the precise number would be
       dependent upon the final proposals
      It was confirmed that all people working on the casino floor would require a licence
      The NEC was still seen as key site in strategic planning terms and there was
       sufficient land on site for further development
      The Casino Advisory Panel had been satisfied with the Council's submission in
       mitigating any crime and disorder implications
      As part of any planning obligations in providing employment to local people,
       improvements to transportation would be sought
The Chairman then invited Jon Ladd to address the Board with regard to his Association's
views on the proposal.
He commented that the quality of Solihull's submission was outstanding. He stated that the
Association was neutral in terms of its views on gambling, however he saw the casino as a
catalyst for regeneration bringing the maximum benefit to the area. Given the limited number
of licences, they would be very valuable to an operator and they would be very cautious in
doing anything to risk that licence.
He agreed with some of the earlier comments over the uniqueness of Solihull's proposal and
the potential tourism benefit and added value to the NEC. He commented that the popular
press had introduced the fear factor around gambling and its detriment to a community or
individual, whereas the casino environment would be well regulated. Further, the design of
the casino and the quality of its management were important. There was an opportunity for
any operator working with local agencies to provide jobs for local people.
He argued that whilst there are those people with a gambling problem the proposals offered
the possibility of providing community support programmes with a net social gain. A Member
commented that it was dangerous to quote such measures, as so much of it was
unquantifiable at this stage.
In answer to a question over the NEC's viability without the casino proposal, it was
commented that such a proposal would offer the site a competitive advantage.
There was a general comment over the effective control of current casino facilities by the
Gaming Board/ Gambling Commission.
Jon offered to liaise with Council Officers over research he had conducted over casino
facilities provided elsewhere in the world.
The Chairman then introduced Nigel Russell, the Tourism Policy & Research Manager of
Advantage West Midlands who through a presentation spoke on economic opportunities
available from the casino development. He spoke from an economic development
perspective and the particular benefits of the NEC site.
He referred to the benefits that a casino would bring in terms of new jobs and expenditure on
construction, operation and its supply chain and the general regeneration benefits which
were difficult to quantify.
As for the NEC site, the region benefits from £6bn of business tourism and much of that is
due to the NEC. The use of the NEC site for the casino development complemented existing
facilities, it was part of a long term development plan, it had an existing visitor/ user base,
builds a competitive position with minimal displacement.


Following a Member question, Nigel commented that whilst not all of the NEC's existing
users will want to use the additional facilities contemplated as part of this proposal, it would
offer the complete package by providing the visitor with additional things to see and do
particularly for the overnight or extended visitor. This development in "building a destination"
was seen to be vital in providing additional opportunities in an ever-stronger conference and
visitor market.
The Chairman questioned the fact that Nigel had quoted 170 additional jobs as a result of
the casino as opposed to 900 quoted earlier in the meeting. It was clarified that the 900
figure referred to the casino and other direct/ indirect jobs whereas the 170 figure was
associated with the casino only.
The Board then received detailed evidence from Rachel Westwood on the social impact of
the proposal. Firstly she described some of the positive impact referred to earlier such as job
creation, employability initiatives and community benefits. She then spoke on the concerns
around the crime and disorder implications, potential increase in problem gambling and
increased debt. These negative impacts needed to be managed through: -
      Licensing Policy and selection criteria
      Early involvement of the Crime & Disorder Reduction Partnership in designing out
      Section 106 funding to support debt counselling
      Community engagement, dialogue, awareness raising and support
In answer to a question, officers confirmed that the Council would have a leading role to play
in negating social impact through its role as Licensing Authority.
Members asked Officers to explore whether there was any evidence on social impact from
existing casinos operating in the UK.
The Chairman then welcomed Jerry Blackett to the meeting, Chief Executive of the
Birmingham & Solihull Chamber of Commerce and Industry. He initially made it clear that the
Chamber had a long association with the NEC providing a number of its Directors. He
stressed the impact of the NEC on the local and regional economy. The NEC was a unique
asset, which required further investment in maintaining its position as one of Europe's
premier meeting places. He quoted that the NEC brought in £130m in business tourism with
a multiplier effect of 1 in 10 for the general local/ regional economy. The NEC's "Destination"
Strategy to provide wider leisure facilities would enable the NEC to compete with other
venues across the world.
He commented that given the Solihull bid, he had had a number of potential casino
operators come to see him. He had been left with the impression that potential operators
took very seriously their responsibility to ensure responsible gaming. He commented that
evidence given by Peter Collins, the Government’s specialist advisor on gambling, to a
Parliamentary Select Committee suggested that there was less risk from gambling in a
controlled environment as provided by a casino compared to forms of gambling available on
He argued that the casino proposal would impact on existing local businesses, with an
increase in local spending and local business feeding off that.
The provision of a quality casino operator was within the Council's gift in terms of the
conditions attached to any Licence. On this point the NEC had a good track record in
providing a quality operation.
In answer to a question, the casino proposal was only part of a total package, which, in
addition to the extra leisure facilities, looked to support the growing creative sector with start
up business opportunities on the site, able to serve exhibition clients using the NEC.
After a lunch break the Chairman introduced a session in which Michael Blamire-Brown and
Gavin Morrice gave evidence on the Gambling Prevalence Study and the Council's
Licensing Policy respectively.
The Study published in September 2007 built on the 1999 survey. The headlines were: -

      Overall participation in a form of gambling 68%
      Rate of problem gambling 0.6% - same as in 1999 (before changes in legislation and
       increased number of gambling products being available)
      Association between problem gambling and being male; parental regular gambling;
       poor health and being single
      As for problem gambling, the highest prevalence - spread betting (14.7%), fixed odds
       betting terminals (11.2%) and betting exchanges (9.8%)
      Attitudes towards gambling were more negative than positive and as such were
       harmful to individuals, however the average person tended to support the view that
       people had the right to gamble and rejected total prohibition.
Gavin stated that the Council's Licensing Policy towards casinos would be underpinned by
the objectives of:
      Prevention of crime and disorder
      Public safety
      Prevention of public nuisance
      Protection of children from harm
In awarding a premises licence the Authority would have regard to: -
      Disturbance, amenity and environment
      Transport and pedestrians
      Crime & disorder
      Public safety and fire safety
      The applicant's steps in promoting the Licensing Objectives
Gavin also explained the types of Licence required and responsibilities of the operator: -
      Premises Licence from Solihull MBC
      Operating Licence and Personal Licence (management) from the Gambling
      Compliance with Gambling Commission’s Mandatory Code of Social Responsibility
       for reducing risks posed to vulnerable people and information, advice and assistance.
He also described the two-stage process in obtaining a Premises Licence and he
reemphasised a point made earlier that it was in the Licensing Authority’s discretion to
impose conditions on the Licence so long as they accorded with the Licensing Objectives.
Further information on licensing conditions and codes of practice were available from the
Gambling Commission at
In answer to a question, Gavin indicated that during his career as a policeman in
Birmingham City Centre he recalled no problems with the large casino already in operation
in the City.
The meeting was then attended by Chief Superintendent Scobbie to give a view on the crime
and disorder implications. From his perspective he saw the operation of a casino no
differently from any other form of large recreational facility and the policing would be planned
and delivered accordingly.
In answer to questions, the Chief Superintendent commented that the NEC site currently
does not have a huge amount of crime, the most significant issue being vehicle crime
particularly during the holding of major shows. With regard to the suggestion that there
would be increased crime associated with the casino, he commented that this was subjective
with no hard evidence to support it. Much would depend on the operator and their integrity
and professionalism

A Member referred to problem gambling in the community and enquired of the officer
whether in his opinion the incidence of a casino would increase these problems. The Chief
Superintendent stated that this was difficult to assess although problem gambling exists now
without the existence of a casino. Council Officers referred to a letter received from Peter
Collins of the Centre for the Study of Gambling part of which dealt with problem gambling.
This stated that from evidence from North America, Australasia and South Africa that if a
new casino is introduced into a jurisdiction with nothing else, problem gambling increases by
50%. However, if a casino is introduced at the same time as a public awareness campaign
about the dangers of gambling and how to avoid them as well as ensuring that free,
confidential and expert counselling is available to those that develop a problem with
excessive gambling, then problem gambling numbers are likely not only to hold steady but
actually decline.
On a further question, the Chief Superintendent reaffirmed that the issues arising from a
casino operation are not inherently problematic and the key would be early engagement with
the operator in designing out crime, there was no evidence to suggest that there was a link
with additional criminality.
Based on the Officer’s policing experience, the casino in Coventry did not give any
operational concerns.
The Chairman then welcomed to the meeting, Mike Nuttall, Managing Director Casinos,
Ladbrokes plc. In his presentation Mike argued that the casino would be the catalyst for
renewal and regeneration, becoming a major entertainment, leisure and gaming destination
providing an extensive range of facilities including hotels, conference facilities, bars,
entertainment and leisure attractions, all controlled through stringent licensing conditions.
This was demonstrated by how the 400,000 sq ft of floor space would be used: -
50% hotel
15% adult entertainment (4% gaming)
12% family/ visitor attractions
10% bars, restaurants and retail
8% serviced offices
5% children's play area
Mike also referred to the stringent licensing conditions and the greatest benefit test to be
used as part of the licensing process.
He concluded that the casino would be the catalyst to the provision of a major mixed
development to substantially enhance what the NEC and Solihull had to offer, with
substantial ongoing economic and social benefits, all controlled through targeted and
stringent licensing conditions.
In answer to Members' concern over bad publicity associated with past casino operations,
Mike indicated that any operator will have to invest substantially in any new provision and
this will be necessary to meet the latest regulatory framework which is substantially different
to what had gone before.
In answer to a further question, Mike indicated that any operator would probably use some
form of loyalty card to encourage participation (likened to the Tesco Privilege card) but
aggressive marketing was unlikely to be used.
Dr Issam Ghannam MD, Associate Specialist in Psychiatry and Steering Group Member of
Solihull Faiths Forum had requested to make a representation to the Board. As a
psychiatrist, Dr Ghannam had had to deal with people who were problem gamblers. He had
done some research on studies into pathological gambling and its effects. He referred to and
quoted from studies in New Zealand, Australia, Canada and USA.
Dr Ghannam argued that before a casino is provided, a centre was needed at which a
pathological gambler may be treated.


Dr Rev Peter Hatton then addressed the meeting on behalf of the Executive of the Solihull
Faiths Forum. Having canvassed the view of colleagues on the Faiths Forum Executive,
whilst views may vary in emphasis, the thrust was clear in that the Forum was unanimously
against the proposal. Their concern may be seen as a "killjoy reaction" but the Forum had
clear concerns for the welfare of vulnerable people in the Borough.
He made the following points: -
      He doubted that this would benefit those from the North of the Borough, with people
       travelling from outside of the Borough for the most significant jobs. It would likely take
       money out of the local economy.
      Concern over the encouragement given to partake in a harmful activity with
       increased numbers involved in gambling. Whilst the activity is regulated it appears to
       be a tolerated vice not of benefit to the community.
      The industry trying to make a wholesome atmosphere for gambling, making it appear
       normal, if this happens the concern of people of faith would become acute.
      The dangers of addition impacting upon the hidden victims ie family members
He asked that the Council withdraw its support for the provision of a casino in the Borough
so as not to contribute further to these problems.
The Chairman then welcomed to the meeting Clive Dutton OBE, Director of Planning &
Regeneration, Birmingham City Council. He submitted a written paper in support of his
verbal presentation at the meeting.
He outlined Birmingham City Council's support for the proposal, identifying the NEC as the
best strategic location, strong regeneration logic, the benefits of a wider attraction and the
NEC being a well-managed and secure site.
In conclusion he urged the Council not to accede to the motion seeking to resist the proposal
but instead, subject to Government approval, proceed to finalise the siting of the Casino and
execute due process. He commented that the criteria contained in the decision of Council on
6th March 2006 appeared a logical and consistent basis for undertaking such an exercise.
The NEC representatives were invited to address the meeting. In their presentation they
gave the following information: -
      900 events, 4.4 million visitors, 11th largest venue in the world
      £1.3 billion economic impact, 22,000 regional jobs - 9 out of 10 NEC employees from
       West Midlands, 1 in 3 live in the East Birmingham/ North Solihull Regeneration Zone
The representatives highlighted the improvements made following investment of £40m but
more was needed to compete with other market providers. The NEC had built a first class
operator reputation and its next development phase was the casino with associated leisure
facilities requiring a total investment of approx. £100m. Such a development would increase
business and leisure tourism and improve the visitor destination profile for Solihull. The
Project would create hundreds of jobs in different phases and the NEC was committed to
seeking local recruitment commitments.
The NEC argued that the 2007 Gambling Prevalence Study had shown that increased
access to gambling had not lead to increases in problem gambling and evidence had shown
that the introduction of casinos, done well, can actually reduce overall problem gambling.
In answer to a question, the NEC stated that if the green light was given before Christmas
2007, buildings would be expected on site by 2010/11.
Having listened to the Faiths representatives a Member had concerns and asked whether
the NEC had any other options for development rather than a casino. The NEC stated that
they had a conscience having their own chaplaincy, and whilst other options had been
explored, the casino was seen as a catalyst to enable the additional development and
The NEC described in outline the stages to development and what may be contained in each
phase. With the assistance of Mike Nuttal they also outlined the gambling limits of a large

casino as opposed to a regional casino. The large casino would provide 30 gambling tables
and 150 jackpot machines with a maximum payout of £4000.
In answer to a question, of the quoted £100m investment, £25m was related to the casino,
£50m the hotel and the remainder to the associated leisure facilities
In concluding the evidence gathering session, Paul Watson thanked all participants and
meeting organisers. He explained that the Government was expected to make an
announcement based on authorities' positional responses. Although Solihull was not in a
position to respond to Government until after the Council meeting on 4th December 2007, if
the Government was to make an announcement before then with the necessary Order, it
was felt that Solihull would be included as the default position. He understood the dilemma
before Members having heard the substantial benefits to the area that the casino would
bring but also the concerns around social impact and gambling problems. Members needed
to consider whether there were sufficient grounds to move away from the Council's
established position and thereby pursue that course, for if the Council was to move away
from its original position there would be no further opportunity in the foreseeable future.
There may also be implications for the Borough’s relationship with the NEC, City Council and
other partners.
The Board considered that given the amount of information gathered during the day, time
was needed for Members to reflect on that. It was suggested that all the evidence submitted
should be bundled and considered by the Board at its meeting scheduled for 5th November
It was also suggested that the Leader of the Council should be asked to write again to the
Secretary of State to advise of the Council's latest position and that it was likely that a
decision would be made at Full Council on 4th December 2007.
       (i)    That the evidence gathered during the day be submitted to
              the Board meeting on 5th November 2007, and
       (ii)   That the Leader of the Council be asked to write again to
              the Secretary of State to update the Council's position.


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