Wednesday, January 31, 2007

All Bets are Off

Well, I admit it. I was wrong, terribly wrong in my yesterday’s column. For, to the astonishment of all and most certainly that of Mr. Prescott and Mr. Anschutz, the glittering prize of the first super casino in Britain went to that well-known jewel of the north, Manchester.

The implications are alarming. Mr. Prescott may well have to return his cowboy boots and belt and the Millennium Dome will remain a sort of indoor Petticoat Lane.

But a distressed area in Manchester will be the beneficiary of home for 1250 slot machines, not for nothing known as ‘one-arm bandits,’ where the already indebted of that city will be able to foregather in order to contribute their remaining cash to the government cause. And thereby become even more personally distressed.

This brilliant idea will be spreading, in a rather less grandiose form, to other towns around the land, an unofficial tax gathering service that even William of Normandy would be proud of.

Perhaps the most remarkable thing about this endeavour is that it is presided over, and enthusiastically endorsed, by the Minister of Culture, whose concept of the remit of her office pays little heed to the definition of ‘culture.’ Culture is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as ‘The arts and other manifestations of human intellectual achievement,’ so please can someone enlighten me as to the ‘art’ or ‘intellectual achievement’ resulting from the jangling of 1250 fruit machines?

There is, I suppose, a pleasing sort of sound akin to a cash register being rung that no doubt has some influence on the treasury.

But in view of the disastrous social results of encouraging gambling of this nature, one must pre-suppose that no one in government, and the Culture Minister in particular, has ever wandered the sleazy back streets of Las Vegas or Atlantic City. This might give them pause for thought.

And for Manchester, a city that has done much to outlive its previously rather grimy and unattractive reputation, it can only be a retrograde step.

It would be more to the point if the Minister of Culture were to be as enthusiastic over encouraging ‘The arts and other manifestations of human intellectual achievement,’ as she is over pandering to the most moronic of human weaknesses.

And then there’s Mr. Anschutz, who wasted all that time sucking up to J.P.

Just goes to show, you can’t trust anyone in this government any more.


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