The London evening newspaper reported that ministers were involved in an allegedly embarrassing climbdown over plans to introduce 24-hour opening for casinos and million-pound slot machine payouts. The move would have meant extra tax income of up to £1.5bn a year.
Reports that the Bill has been shelved because of an overcrowded parliamentary table and will not be featured on the Queen's Speech were dismissed today as "premature speculation" by one industry insider. He said it was unlikely that any decision will be made until a Cabinet reshuffle at the earliest.
However, the Evening Standard suggested asylum legislation will be put before the gaming reform in the parliamentary timetable.
Plans for the gambling legislation were announced last year by the Culture Secretary, Tessa Jowell, who wanted to introduce a Bill that would include the privatisation of the Tote and change the terms of the license awarded to run the National Lottery. These two features of the changes are suspected to be unrelated to changes in the gambling laws.
Proposed gaming changes include lottery-style rollovers for unclaimed prizes, installation of roulette wheels and blackjack tables and the elimination of a law imposing a day's cooling off when joining a casino, which means that at present customers cannot gamble for a day after joining.
If the plans for reform were to be shelved there are likely to be many disappointed industry figures. On Monday the American casino operator MGM Mirage, the world's leading casino group, bought 25% of the UK's Metro Casino's.
Terry Lanni, MGM's chief executive, said this would be the first in a series of UK activity for the company in advance of the deregulation of the UK gaming industry. He said: "Assuming the Queen's speech in the autumn contains reference to impending changes in legislation, we think there are going to be tremendous opportunities in the UK."
Gaming bosses would all have been looking forward to increased earnings. The legislation may have meant an increase in industry turnover from £7bn to £10bn.
Some industry bosses have made significant donations to the Labour Party since it came into power in 1997, including Peter Coates, owner of Provincial Racing, which runs a large chain of betting shops. The Culture Department has denied all claims that the donations are related to the proposed reforms.