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Last Updated: Tuesday, 30 January 2007, 17:54 GMT
Delight in city at casino victory
What people in Manchester think of the super-casino

Manchester's leaders have reacted with delight to the announcement the city is to host the UK's first super-casino.

The site at east Manchester was dubbed a "rank outsider" in the race for the licence, with regional support focused on the bid from Blackpool.

But business groups and political leaders hailed the news as fantastic - and a result of the city's strong bid.

Sir Richard Leese, leader of Manchester City Council, said it would be good for east Manchester's regeneration.

"I think the bookies did have us as a rank outsider this morning but fortunately it was an independent panel making the decision, not the bookies," said Sir Richard.

"It is going to be a real boost to the regeneration of what is one of the most deprived areas of the country. And we're now really looking forward to taking this forward."

We're not shocked at all - it was a brilliant bid
Angie Robinson, Chamber of Commerce

The North West Development Agency had thrown its weight behind the Blackpool bid, which meant there was less regional support for Manchester.

It left the city as a 16-1 outsider at the bookmakers to be selected as a test-bed for the UK's first regional "resort" casino.

But Angie Robinson, chief executive of Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce, said she was confident in the city's proposal.

"The interesting thing is everybody is sort of saying to us 'Oh, I bet you must be a bit shocked because this is sort of rank outsider stuff.' Well, no.

'Greatest need'

"We're not shocked at all - it was a brilliant bid.

"There's a compelling case for the opportunities to develop this particular part of the leisure industry here and the regeneration benefits that will be offered to the east part of Manchester are absolutely great."

Artist's impression of Sportcity casino

Plans for the casino at the Sportcity complex in east Manchester will include an arena, swimming pool, nightclub and hotel.

In making its decision, the panel said the area had the "greatest need in terms of multiple deprivation" of all the proposals.

Among the widespread delight in the city, there was a cautious welcome from the city council's Liberal Democrats.

Councillor Simon Ashley, leader of the group, said the party would only support the casino if it can be shown the benefits outweigh the social concerns.

"Of course we welcome the investment this will mean to Manchester in terms of jobs and regeneration," said Mr Ashley.

"However, the council needs to make sure that this casino is as socially responsible as it can be."

Faith groups in the city said they were seriously concerned about the "social and moral effects" of the casino.

Map of Sportcity site

Speaking on their behalf, The Bishop of Manchester, the Right Reverend Nigel McCulloch, said: "As faith community leaders we have a responsibility to work for the prevention of problem gambling and for the support of its victims.

"We are already monitoring the situation though the Problem Gambling Group, which liaises with the city council, and pressing for an appropriate strategy and resources to be put in place."

The casino's proposed site is at the same location where Manchester hosted some of the major events of the 2002 Commonwealth Games.

Labour MP Graham Stringer, whose Blackley constituency covers north Manchester, believes the regeneration that followed this event may have been a catalyst for the panel's decision.

He said the east Manchester community lost their scepticism when they saw the Commonwealth Games were a success for regenerating the area, one of the poorest in the UK.

Bid organisers said the project would mean a 265m investment and bring 2,700 jobs.

'Spiritual deprivation'

However, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has expressed concerns about the super-casino in Manchester and fears it may have a harmful effect on the area.

He said: "I'm very concerned that we can't think of better ways of regenerating deprived areas than by developing within them institutions that may well contribute to the material and spiritual deprivation of the area in the long term."

His fears were also echoed by John Taylor, chair of Manchester Citizens Advice Bureau, who said the organisation had dealt with more than 50,000 debt problems in Manchester last year.

"We are concerned that the super-casino may lead to more people coming to us with gambling debts," he said.

"Any increase in gambling opportunities is bound to lead to a rise in problem gambling and debt. Manchester could be the loser, not the winner."

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