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London Clubs takes a stake in Vegas

London Clubs International,owner of the Les Ambassadeurs and Ritz gaming clubs, is moving from its luxury West End heartland to take a stake in a hotel and casino on Las Vegas's brash main boulevard, known as "The Strip".

LCI said yesterday it was investing $50m (pounds 31m) for a 25 per cent stake in Aladdin Gaming, a casino operator which has just received approval for a giant 2,600-room hotel development with a 125,000 square foot main casino floor and a themed entertainment and shopping mall.

Alan Goodenough, chief executive of London Clubs, said: "We are very pleased to be entering the world's largest gaming market with Aladdin. The redeveloped and expanded Aladdin Hotel and Casino will allow London Clubs to offer an entirely new standard of luxury in the Las Vegas market."

Aladdin said it had been attracted to London Clubs because of its expertise in running so-called "salle privee" gaming clubs. The expansion of the Aladdin casino will include the development of these top-of-the- market gaming facilities. Jack Sommer, chairman of Aladdin, said: "We are bringing the premier international gaming company to the entertainment epicentre of the world."

London Clubs, now worth about pounds 430m after tripling in value in the past two-and-a-half years, has been expanding its business rapidly in Europe and the Middle East since it floated on the stock market in June 1994. The Aladdin project is London Club's first gaming venture in the US, and is thought to be the first big operational involvement in a Las Vegas Strip hotel by a publicly quoted European company.

As well as taking a 25 per cent stake in the underlying property of the Aladdin and its gaming operations, LCI will have total responsibility for the operation of the venture's "premium player" activities, which will have 30 tables and 100 high-level slot machines. LCI will have a seat on Aladdin's board.

The market welcomed the move yesterday, with London Clubs shares closing 15p higher at 345p, helping reverse the weakness in the price since interim figures in December highlighted a shortage of high- rollers at the company's leading casinos in the capital.