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Thursday, 4 October, 2001, 09:13 GMT 10:13 UK
Blackpool's 'Vegas' aim derided
Five or six casinos are planned for the Golden Mile
The head of the UK's biggest bingo firm has dismissed Blackpool's aim to become the Las Vegas of the country as "publicity fluff".

John Kelly, the chief executive of Gala Group, says there will be a large expansion of gambling venues if the government goes ahead with a proposed change in legislation.

But he says more than that is needed to revitalise Blackpool.

He said if Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell approves recommendations made in the recent Budd report there will be scope for a significant number of new casinos.

Mr Kelly's firm has bought 28 Ladbroke casinos
"It takes a giant leap of faith to think it's possible," said Mr Kelly.

"The publicity fluff of Blackpool turning itself into Las Vegas is interesting but too visionary to be believed.

"Blackpool's a great town but The Golden Mile is pretty tired.

"The town needs billions of pounds of investment.

"I suspect the people who are developing that Blackpool concept also don't believe it's going to be the Vegas of Great Britain - it's just a useful tag to put on it."

Budd report

Former Treasury adviser Sir Alan Budd proposed wide-ranging relaxation of gaming laws, allowing punters to enjoy all-night betting with alcohol and live entertainment.

He also suggested doing away with restrictions which force people to apply for membership of bingo halls and casinos 24 hours before they can play.

Casinos should also be allowed to advertise, in the same way that the National Lottery and bingo operators now can, he said.

If the Budd report is fully adopted by the government, it could lead to applications for new casino licences in towns where casino gambling is currently prohibited.

These include Oxford, Cambridge and Norwich.

I won't cry crocodile tears for the Lottery

John Kelly
It could also lead to Gala introducing casino games into some of its existing 166 bingo halls, which have a 40% share of the bingo market, said Mr Kelly.

"My understanding is that the government is keen to implement the majority of the Budd report, subject to the current consultation period," he added.

Mr Kelly dismissed suggestions that gambling deregulation would cut National Lottery tickets sales and harm the Lottery's good causes.

New image

"It's up to (Lottery operator) Camelot to market its product on a level playing field and gain its niche.

"Camelot should not be acting from a grace and favour position.

"It was able to spend billions on advertising its products at a time when bingo and casinos weren't allowed to spend a penny on advertising.

"I won't cry crocodile tears for the Lottery."

Gala has unveiled its plans for the 28 Ladbroke casinos it bought from the Hilton Group for 235 million in December, which will be re-branded Gala Casinos.

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