A casino has been hotly debated within Swindon council for over fifteen years and shows no sign of being resolved in the immediate future. Is this a critical, missing part of the town or would it simply be more hassle than it is worth?
The social and economic benefits of a Swindon casino are clear. The venture would generate 150 jobs directly and then an approximated 600 indirectly, which would be a huge boost for the area and invaluable for the locals. Furthermore, the new attraction would increase footfall in the town centre (the proposed site for the development back in 1996) and it is bound to help local businesses. Both tourists and locals alike could enjoy this new, multi-million-pound investment and the economic benefits it would bring to the town centre.
In recent years casino gaming has had a huge digital surge and many now choose to bet online rather than in a casino. Swindon would have a lot to learn from these businesses. For example, websites such as Vegas Casino offer a wide variety of classic and innovative casino games and users can play slots online using bitcoin, a digital currency at the forefront of new payment methods. This is combined with the possibility of playing with live dealers and betting on sports, so Swindon would need to consider how to incorporate such a wide range of services in limited space to compete.
However, when the Swindon project was given the go-ahead in 1996 residents complained about an “inevitable” increase of traffic congestion and noise pollution. For some, a casino is not seen to be the right course of development for Swindon and other avenues should be explored.
Whilst Swindon was granted a casino licence in 1996, the General Elections of 1997 prevented any action from happening. Since then, the Gambling Act of 2005 suggested that the priority was going to be the ‘super-casinos’ that are much larger and extravagant establishments similar to those found in Las Vegas. However, after Manchester was announced as the winner for this super casino a surprising turn of events saw the Government instead support plans for 16 smaller casinos across the country. Although Swindon applied, it was not successful in receiving approval for the casino plans. The proposed plan was a small casino, however, at 30,000-40,000 square feet and costing £10 million it would have been larger than most existing casino establishments in Britain. It would have had 80 slot machines and £4000 jackpot prizes.
As opinions were so divided upon the development of a casino in Swindon town centre it is perhaps desirable that plans have been abandoned and it allows for further debate upon the subject. Furthermore, gambling has seen a shift to the digital world that would need to be considered in any plans for a physical casino to be successful. Either way, the change of attitude of the Government in supporting the development of smaller towns could be a promising sign for the future of Swindon.