Gamblers in Aberdeen will now have round-the-clock access to a casino after the council’s licensing board granted the city’s first 24-hour gaming licence.
Gala Casino on Summer Street had previously opened its doors from mid-afternoon to 5am but last year submitted an application to the local authority to extend the hours.
During yesterday’s licensing board meeting, members backed the application three votes to two.
The decision was met with criticism from the Church of Scotland, which claimed access to 24-hour gambling will put vulnerable people at risk.
And the two councillors who attempted to block the plans claimed the decision will “open the floodgates” for similar licence extension bids.
The Rev Ian Galloway, convener of the Kirk’s church and society council, said last night: “We’re not in favour of this licence extension at all, mainly because it puts some vulnerable people in a more vulnerable position.
“Access to 24-hour gambling is not something we think society needs – we believe it gives out the wrong signals.”
Licensing board convener Muriel Jaffrey said she was “not happy” with the move while fellow member Bill Cormie said it would encourage more businesses to apply for extended hours.
“This will only exacerbate the situation in the city centre,” said Mr Cormie, councillor for the Midstocket and Rosemount wards.
“I feel for the residents in Summer Street who already have to endure people coming and going at all hours.
“My main concern, however, is that this will open the floodgates and we will now see a surge of similar applications.”
Councillor Ronald Clark backed the application with Councillors George Penny and Willie Young.
He said last night: “I don’t see these extended opening hours being detrimental to the area as the casino already closes in the early hours then opens again in the afternoon.
“It’s unlikely that a deluge of people will take advantage of these new hours, maybe a few people coming off night shifts. The change will be minimal.”
Casinos in the UK can legally open until 6am, but businesses can apply to extend opening hours under 2005 legislation which paved the way for 24-hour gambling.
In November 2007, Gala applied for a 21-hour licence, claiming the longer hours would help it compete with bookies in the city and attract workers in for a coffee and sandwich – and perhaps a flutter – in what were “very, very difficult times” for the gaming industry.
Commenting on yesterday’s decision, a spokeswoman for Gala Coral said: “We already have licences for 15 of our casinos in the UK to permit 24-hour gaming and are pleased to be able to offer our customers in Aberdeen this facility and greater flexibility in the hours that we can provide gaming at this casino.”