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Tuesday, 26 March, 2002, 13:51 GMT
Blackpool: Bank or bust?
Caesar's Village, Las Vegas
Is Las Vegas the blueprint for Blackpool?
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By the BBC's Nick Thatcher in Blackpool

It made its name as a typical British seaside resort.

Over the years, Blackpool could boast a tower, trams, and the biggest rollercoaster in the country.

Now in a bid to shed its kiss-me-quick image, one company here hopes to transform the Lancashire town into a British version of Las Vegas.

There's already ambitious plans to develop casino-style hotels to sit alongside traditional attractions on the resort's famous Golden Mile.

Nobody locally or nationally appears to have looked at the social costs

Steven Bate
Blackpool Coalition Against Gambling Expansion

"We see it as a huge opportunity," said Alan Cazill, the economic development officer at Blackpool Council.

"We want to see a year-round resort with year-round jobs that can be at the centre of a larger regeneration of Blackpool."

The resort, like many others, has been hit by the decline in popularity of the traditional seaside holiday.

Where once 17 million people a year visited Blackpool, that figure is now in decline.


In the amusement arcades along the front, there seems to be broad support for something being done.

"It will be good if it brings more people to the area," a woman from Glasgow told me.

"Families have stopped coming here," said one resident from Blackpool, although another suggested: "It's better if the casinos stay away."
Blackpool Tower and the pier
Blackpool's famous pier

Not everyone is happy - many worry about an increase in the number of people addicted to gambling and cast doubt on claims that a casino culture would help bring thousands of new jobs to Blackpool.

"Nobody locally or nationally appears to have looked at the social costs," argued Steven Bate, spokesman for the Blackpool Coalition Against Gambling Expansion.

"For example, evidence from Australia shows that two jobs are lost in other businesses for every one created in casinos."

Both camps have conflicting statistics to support their case.
Casino chips
New casinos face opposition

Supporters of the scheme say more than 70% of people surveyed in Blackpool back the idea of casino-style hotels.

Opponents argue nine out of 10 people would prefer another form of regeneration for the town and would like to see an exhibition centre or a theme park instead.

Both agree that any development must sit side by side with the town's traditional attractions.

It may be the 21st century but the days of candyfloss and donkey rides are by no means numbered.

See also:

26 Mar 02 | UK Politics
UK gambling laws relaxed
26 Mar 02 | England
Blackpool's casino dilemma
01 Mar 02 | Business
Gambling protects Rank's profits
26 Feb 02 | England
Bishop dices with casino future
04 Oct 01 | England
Blackpool's 'Vegas' aim derided
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