Viva Tunbridge Wells?

The borough council of Royal Tunbridge Wells, Kent, England is considering a casino to spark economic growth in the community. A borough leader says Tunbridge Wells was once a big gambling town.

“Vegas of the 17th century”

David Jukes, head of borough council in Tunbridge Wells, Kent, about 40 miles from London, says the community should return to its roots as a gambling town. Those roots are pretty distant, Jukes added—apparently, Tunbridge Wells was the “Las Vegas of Europe in the 17th century,” reported the Kent and Sussex Courier.

“This will not be slot machines,” Jukes told the publication. “What we are proposing is an upmarket casino; not necessarily black-tie, but where you have to give 24 hours’ notice to play and so forth,” with chemin du fer, roulette, baccarat and pontoon.

He cited the example of Casino Spielbank in Wiesbaden, Germany, Tunbridge Wells’s sister city. “It makes a tremendous contribution to the revenue taken in by the city of Wiesbaden to relieve the burden on the taxpayers,” Jukes observed. A similar gaming hall in his community “would be a tremendous attraction to an affluent town” and “would enhance appeal for the visitors and attract the higher echelons of the restaurant market and maybe even retail outlets.”

Not everyone agrees, including addiction counselor Justyn Larcombe, a recovered compulsive gambler and author of the book Tails I Lose.

“Having experienced the destruction of gambling in my own life and seen the devastation it has caused in the lives of others, I am reluctant to welcome the possible plan for a casino in Tunbridge Wells,” he said. “Could we not surely look to build an alternative establishment that won’t cause debt and broken relationships for many?”

The Courier reported that a downtown movie theater could be a likely site; other possible locations could be the site of the current Town Hall and Assembly Hall.

“It could be anywhere but it is up to commercial developers to put it in as a commercial venture,” said Jukes. “It would have to be a privately-funded operation. If someone came along with that idea, we would certainly entertain it and I personally would like to see a casino in the town.”