by John Harrington Pubs will automatically be allowed two gaming machines under new proposals to relax gambling laws, but trade experts claim more are needed if pubs are to compete in a new deregulated system. The British Beer & Pub Association is urging the Government to allow up to four machines without a licence, to encourage punters to stick with pubs and not be drawn to the newly deregulated "super" casinos. Under the proposals outlined in new clauses of the draft Gambling Bill, published last Thursday pubs will not need a gaming licence to operate up to two gaming machines. The BBPA's director of pubs and leisure Martin Rawlings said gambling in pubs would still be more tightly regulated than in specialist gambling shops the same restrictions are not placed on higher-stake fixed-odds betting machines, popular in casinos and bookmakers. Rawlings said that the proposed relaxation of gambling laws would create a gambling boom in big casinos at the expense of the "casual funflutter" of the pub fruit machine. "We're being squeezed out of the game, which is hitting landlords' pockets hard. "The proposed deregulation could lead to a rapid expansion of large casinos and remote gambling via the internet while the traditional machine market such as the pub, where customers can play in a relaxed environment, will suffer. We believe pubs should be allowed four machines by right instead of having to apply for special permits." No timescale has been set for the Gambling Bill to become law. It is currently being scrutinised by a committee of MPs and peers, who are due to report back to Government by 8 April. The Bill will then go before Parliament when time is found. Morning Advertiser legal editor Peter Coulson said: "The situation is likely to be that those who currently have more than two machines will be entitled to carry on with them through the transition period, until the Gambling Act comes into effect. Then they will have to get permission from their local authority. "[Licensees] can't really be turned down for more machines if there are no licensing objections, ie, there has been no trouble.