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Last Updated: Wednesday, 24 May 2006, 16:59 GMT 17:59 UK
'Super-casino' shortlist set out
A shortlist of eight possible sites for Britain's first Las Vegas-style "super-casino" has been announced.

Of 27 applicants, London's Wembley Stadium and Millennium Dome, Cardiff, Blackpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Sheffield and Glasgow are on the list.

Only one site will eventually get the go-ahead for a super-casino with unlimited slot machine jackpots.

A further 16 licences for small and large casinos with jackpot limits of 4,000 will also be granted.

The Casino Advisory Panel's final decision is expected to be handed to ministers in December.

More than 60 local authorities applied for the small and large casino licences.

These include Bath and North East Somerset, Restormel in Cornwall and Torbay, Devon, in the West Country and Bournemouth, Brighton, Hastings and Southampton on the south coast.

Chelmsford, Dartford, Canterbury, Luton, Milton Keynes and Thurrock are on the short-list from the Home Counties, along with the London Borough of Newham.

Blackpool's Golden Mile
Blackpool is among the front-runners for a super-casino

Short-listed in the West Midlands are Dudley, Wolverhampton, and Birmingham's NEC, in Solihull, while in eastern England, East Lindsey, Great Yarmouth, Hull, Leicester, Mansfield, North East Lincolnshire, Peterborough and Scarborough make the list.

Short-listed in the north of England are Middlesbrough, South Tyneside and Leeds.

Also on the list are Dumfries and Galloway, Sefton and Swansea.

The local authorities which applied for super-casino licences but were rejected were Leeds, Southampton, Chesterfield, Coventry, Dartford, Dudley, Great Yarmouth, Havering, Hull, Ipswich, Middlesbrough, Midlothian, Newport, Solihull (NEC site), Southend-on-Sea, Sunderland, Thurrock, Wakefield and West Dunbartonshire.

Richard Leese, leader of Manchester City Council, said: "We are delighted that the independent panel has endorsed our assessment that Manchester has proved to be a robust location for a regional casino."

Ted Richards, leader of Solihull Council which backed the failed Birmingham NEC bid, said: "I cannot believe this decision.

"Our proposal was such a strong one. A potential site that surely cannot be matched anywhere. This defies belief."

Regeneration hopes

Social and regeneration impacts will be considered by the Casino Advisory Panel in making its recommendations.

Panel chairman Professor Stephen Crow said: "I know that our decisions will cause disappointment to some, not least to authorities who had looked to their casino proposal as a means of alleviating severe problems of deprivation or even improving social conditions and meeting the need for economic regeneration.

"But the competition has been very strong and so it is inevitable that some proposals, good enough though they may be in themselves, have yet to yield before more powerfully justified cases."

He said those who had made it onto either list still faced further "rigorous examination".

Regional planning bodies are being invited to submit their views on the proposed sites by 28 June, as are members of the public.

The government originally suggested there should be eight super-casinos, but after widespread opposition and claims they would lead to a big increase in gambling addiction, the plans were scaled down to just one in order to save the Gambling Bill.

'Protective legislation'

Culture secretary Tessa Jowell has defended the introduction of new casinos, saying the government had modernised and tightened the laws on gambling, which would now be "the most protective legislation in the world".

She told BBC Radio 4's Today programme all gambling operators would have to meet requirements on making sure gambling was fair, protecting children and the vulnerable and keeping gambling crime-free.

HAVE YOUR SAY
Permitting casinos all over the country is simply another source of stealth revenue
Ron Reddey, Weybridge

She said she did not think the casinos would increase problem gambling, but she would be prepared to close them down if they did.

The advisory panel is offering licences for one super-casino, eight large casinos and eight small.

The main variation between the three is the size of the customer area allowed, the number of slot machines and size of the jackpot.

The super-casino will have a minimum customer area of 5,000 sq m and 1,250 unlimited-jackpot slot machines, while large casinos will have a minimum area of 1,000 sq m and up to 150 slot machines with a maximum jackpot of 4,000.

The small casinos will have a minimum customer area of 750 sq m, up to 80 slot machines and a jackpot of 4,000.

The law requiring people to wait 24 hours before being permitted to game at the UK's existing 140 casinos was abolished last October. The largest casino at present is Star City in Birmingham which has a customer area of more than 929 sq m.

Wednesday's announcement follows a report from an advice charity showing it has seen a dramatic rise in the number of people seeking help for online gambling addictions - women in particular.

GamCare found the number of people using the charity for counselling had increased by 41.3% - to 6,563 people - between 2004 and 2005.

It said more than a quarter of gambling addicts using the charity's online message forum were women.




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