TWO rebel Liverpool MPs last night attacked a plan for a multi-million pound waterfront casino at Kings Dock, warning it would suck the life out of local businesses.
Labour MPs Peter Kilfoyle (Walton) and Bob Wareing (West Derby) criticised Government plans for up to 40 "super-casinos" across the country.
Birkenhead Labour MP Frank Field last night led a Commons revolt against the Government's Gambling Bill.
In the vote on the second reading, Tony Blair's majority was halved to 74 as 29 Labour MPs joined the Tories and Lib Dems in the division lobbies.
Mr Field openly urged colleagues to defy the whips and vote against the Bill, or abstain to win later concessions.
In his attack on the Kings Dock plan, Mr Kilfoyle urged Liverpool City Council to consider Atlantic City where restaurants and bars had gone to the wall because they could not compete with cut-price food and drink on offer in casinos.
And Mr Wareing poured scorn on the idea that a casino was the key to regenerating Liverpool, insisting they were suitable only for seaside resorts such as Blackpool and Bournemouth.
Peel Holdings, which owns Liverpool John Lennon Airport, is in talks with the city council after drawing up a joint blueprint with Las Vegas casino giant MGM Mirage.
The partnership claims a casino at Kings Dock, also boasting a luxury hotel, leisure and conference facilities, could create 2,500 jobs.
It says a waterfront site would be ideal for attracting wealthy passengers disembarking at the planned cruise liner terminal at the Pier Head, to be built next autumn.
The scheme would be one of four to be built at a combined cost of £650m, with the other three earmarked for Manchester, Salford and Leeds.
The plan is separate from the controversial proposals, contained in the Gambling Bill, for between 20 and 40 "super-casinos" with up to 1,250 machines each boasting unlimited jackpots.
However, it would benefit from the Bill's intention to allow round-the-clock opening and abolish the requirement for membership to be taken out 24 hours before entry.
Mr Kilfoyle said: "We shouldn't be encouraging gambling in this way, but I'm afraid the city council will be dazzled by promises from the gaming industry that turn out to be empty.
Mr Wareing said: "There must be many ways of regenerating Kings Dock without allowing in these American casinos. It won't benefit people in my constituency."
Last night, Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell tried to head off the backbench rebellion by pledging to place a duty on councils to consult local people before allowing a casino scheme.
Ms Jowell is believed to be ready to meet backbench demands for a strict cap on the number of giant casinos, although she insisted last night that such an approach was a "blunt instrument".