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Last Updated: Tuesday, 29 August 2006, 13:11 GMT 14:11 UK
Casino giant apology to clerics
Millennium Dome
The Dome was the shortlist front-runner to be the first super casino
The firm behind plans to build a casino at the Millennium Dome has apologised for wrongly claiming local religious leaders backed the plan.

Officials from Philip Anschutz's AEG group sent documents to the government purporting to be from religious leaders in Greenwich expressing support.

But the Greenwich Peninsula Chaplaincy complained its views were misrepresented, leaked e-mails reveal.

The row comes ahead of the first public hearings into would-be casino venues.

The Dome was the shortlist front-runner to be selected as the site for the UK's first Las Vegas-style super casino.

In the first round of judging released in July, it came just ahead of Glasgow and Blackpool.

Leaked e-mails

But the Dome's application has been mired in controversy after Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott was found to have stayed at Mr Anschutz's ranch.

Mr Prescott has repeatedly insisted that he has not been involved in the casino application process and that AEG has received no preferential treatment.

Much of the document has been simply made up and it has a tone which is positive towards the casino plan, whereas the paper which our trustees put out is negative
Millennium Dome chaplain Rev Malcolm Torry

The latest row centres on documents sent by AEG to the Department of Culture, Media and Sport suggesting multi-faith group Greenwich Peninsula Chaplaincy was broadly positive about the casino plan.

The one page submission was published on the DCMS website.

But in a leaked email to AEG, Rev Malcolm Torry, says: "The paper on the Culture Dept website looks like a letter from me and it isn't one.

"I can see that some of the phrases in it are taken from the paper which we published on a possible casino, but much of the document has been simply made up and it has a tone which is positive towards the casino plan, whereas the paper which our trustees put out is negative..."

I don't know how this happened but it is a mistake
AEG European chief executive David Campbell

He concedes that in the original document the Greenwich chaplaincy agreed to serve the casino and its patrons if was built.

But he adds: "Most of the content is what different sacred texts say about gambling: and they're not complimentary."

In a second e-mail, the Rev Torry tells AEG's European chief executive, David Campbell, that part of the document submitted by the company misrepresents the collective view of the Greenwich Peninsula Chaplaincy.

In its summary, the document says the chaplaincy "welcomes the creation of over 4,600 new jobs", but Rev Torry said "some of the new jobs, because of their content, are not in fact welcomed by some faith communities".

In a reply, Mr Campbell says: "I cannot excuse the fact that this summary should have been cleared with you.

"I don't know how this happened but it is a mistake and as CEO I am ultimately responsible and so apologise unreservedly to you and your colleagues."

'Oversight'

Rev Terry said his group's main complaint was that its trustees were not consulted before the document was released.

We had written a paper last year to explain the view of the different faiths and it came out as pretty negative, of course because the majority of faiths are
Rev Malcolm Torry

But he said he believed the decision not to consult was an "oversight" and he had accepted the apology from the company.

The chaplaincy was set up to cater for the spiritual needs of construction workers on the Greenwich peninsula site and an expected influx of 20,000 people once it has been developed for housing and business.

Rev Torry said: "Muslims are fundamentally opposed to gambling, and the sacred texts of Sikhs, Hindus and Baha'is are similarly negative.

"Christians and Jews have a variety of views on the issue - you find some Christians fundamentally opposed and others are not.

"We had written a paper last year to explain the view of the different faiths and it came out as pretty negative, of course because the majority of faiths are."

Public hearings

The row comes as AEG prepares for a public hearing into its application on Wednesday.

The hearing will be the first by the Casino Advisory Panel as it opens a series of public examinations into the shortlisted venues competing to host the first super-casino in the UK.

Further hearings will be held around the country this and next week to study proposals for a super-casino in Cardiff, Glasgow, Newcastle, Sheffield, Manchester and Blackpool.

Only one super casino is initially being permitted under the terms of the Gambling Act 2005, to be selected from the provisional shortlist drawn up in May.




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