US firms dismayed at supercasinos U-turn

14 April 2005 by
US firms dismayed at supercasinos U-turn

American leisure group Caesars Entertainment has slammed the Government's concession to slash the number of supercasinos from eight to one, saying it will cost the UK economy up to £3b.

The controversial Gambling Act was passed last week after an eleventh-hour climb-down to the Conservative party to cut the number of supercasinos from eight to one.

Culture secretary Tessa Jowell said she "regretted" the reduction in the number of proposed regional casinos and estimated the amendment would cost the country about £600m. "It's important that the industry remains supportive of this bill and has confidence in it," she said.

A spokesman for Caesars branded the estimated loss derisory, however, saying the real cost would be between £2b and £3b.

Our Wembley scheme is worth £350m and Anschutz [the American entertainment group] plans to invest £250m at the Dome site - which makes £600m alone. I don't know where the Government has got its figures from," he said.

The last-minute changes also mean that a queue of investors will now have to scramble for a single supercasino licence, to be awarded in late 2006.

The Caesars spokesman added: "The news is a big shame. The Tory party is playing politics with the issue. Both houses of Parliament have already voted through eight regional casinos, so it's strange that they would be so arrogant as to ignore that now."

American leisure group Las Vegas Sands was eyeing supercasino deals at five UK football stadiums - Glasgow Rangers, West Ham, Birmingham City, Sheffield United and Manchester United. It's now hoping the Government will issue more licences at a later stage - a possibility mentioned by Jowell.

A spokesman for Las Vegas Sands said: "We were encouraged by the comments of the secretary of state in Parliament and remain committed to our UK partners."

Anschutz, which is developing the London Dome site around a supercasino centrepiece, was also putting on a brave face. A spokesman for the company said: "This project does not rely on getting a casino licence. We are primarily building a world-class entertainment district, with music, sport and exhibition facilities."

Observers have tipped Hilton to clinch the one licence for its proposed supercasino in Blackpool. A spokesman for the British Casino Association said: "It's speculation at the moment, but it's a fair bet it will be in Blackpool. It's pushed hard for this bill from the start, and flew out of the blocks a mile ahead of the competition."

Source: Caterer & Hotelkeeper magazine, 14 April 2005

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