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Last Updated: Monday, 21 August 2006, 12:44 GMT 13:44 UK
Town's future waits on Lady Luck
By Giancarlo Rinaldi
BBC Scotland's news website
South of Scotland reporter

Stranraer harbour is a 'blank canvas' for developers

It should really all be decided on the spin of a roulette wheel.

That would surely be the most appropriate way to allocate the 16 smaller scale casino licences currently up for grabs across the UK.

It would certainly fit well with the opportunist instinct that has put Scotland's only remaining bidder - Stranraer - in the running.

A town that was down on its luck and looking for a break has taken a gamble on the boost a casino could bring.

Prospects for Stranraer did not look bright with ferry operator and major employer Stena Line in the process of seeking a move to Cairnryan.

So the local authority, enterprise company and other agencies were already looking at ways to regenerate the waterfront area.

What a great idea for the development - a great cog in that whole process could be a casino
Tommy Sloan
Council convener

When the casino licence possibility came along they were only too happy to make a wager on landing one of them.

"This is a huge blank canvas to draw on," said the council's economic regeneration manager Tony Fitzpatrick.

"It is a huge area for development.

"The whole Stranraer waterfront project has great potential."

Council convener Tommy Sloan added: "The opportunity came along when it was public that they were looking to give out the licences for the casinos.

"What a great idea for the development - a great cog in that whole process could be a casino.

"It was really fortunate timing."

It is also probably the first time that Stranraer has been mentioned in the same sentence as Las Vegas, Montecarlo or Atlantic City.

Potential developers

Although it may have been a spur of the moment decision it has certainly gathered pace.

The first steps have been taken towards a marina development which could eventually have up to 500 berths.

About 11 developers have already expressed an interest in the project with associated leisure and housing plans also in the pipeline.

That is all the more impressive considering it was only earlier this year that the local licensing board finally plumped for Stranraer ahead of Gretna as its preferred casino bid.

The main reason for that decision was geographical which may be somewhat surprising for a relatively remote spot in south west Scotland.

Stranraer harbour
The casino is seen as central to regenerating the harbour area

However, like all great gambling enterprises, the Stranraer bid believes it has a big potential backer - across the sea in Ireland.

Without the hope of drawing in customers from over the water, the town knows its casino dreams would be a long shot at best.

If, however, it can show that thousands would be tempted to make the trip across the Irish Sea then the plan suddenly starts to make sense.

During a recent visit to Northern Ireland, deputy enterprise minister Allan Wilson called for closer business links between the two countries.

"By working together we can raise standards and improve learning, trade and enterprise opportunities on both sides of the Irish Sea," he said.

The people behind the Stranraer casino plans believe that this is an area where their proposal fits in well.

That might well mean their plans prove to be a winner when the Casino Advisory Panel announces its decision later this year.




SEE ALSO
Port's casino case gathers pace
09 Aug 06 |  South of Scotland
Town's casino campaign wins boost
26 Jul 06 |  South of Scotland
Stranraer scheme strikes it lucky
24 May 06 |  South of Scotland
Stranraer to take casino gamble
16 Mar 06 |  Scotland
South west makes its casino case
13 Mar 06 |  Scotland

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