'Las Vegas' casinos set for go-ahead in UK town centres

Click to follow
The Independent Online

The Government is set to give the green light today for US operators to build Las Vegas-style casinos with unlimited jackpot slot machines in Britain's run-down town centres.

The Government is set to give the green light today for US operators to build Las Vegas-style casinos with unlimited jackpot slot machines in Britain's run-down town centres.

Tessa Jowell, the Culture Secretary, will block attempts to allow big-prize slot machines in existing casinos, however, claiming they could lead to widespread problem gambling.

A committee of MPs and Lords said in July there was a case for considering whether these machines could feature in Britain's existing casinos. But Ms Jowell will today say that only large "destination" casinos, which will contain other leisure facilities such as hotels, restaurants and cinemas, can offer unlimited prizes. Destination casinos will be built in areas needing regeneration and will have a cap of 1,250 slot machines.

Responding today to the committee's report, the Government will also reject recommendations that destination casinos should not be built in town centres. The committee had "grave concerns" about allowing this, saying it would put unlimited jackpot machines close to large numbers of people. But Rob Haworth, of the property consultants Jones Lang LaSalle, said banning these casinos - which will bring millions of pounds of investment - from town centres would go against the Government's plans to regenerate urban areas. "But casino developers will have to make a strong case for the regenerational benefits of their project," he said.

The proposals do not bode well for incumbent casino operators in the UK, such as Rank Group, Stanley Leisure and London Clubs International, which hoped to put high-prize slot machines in their existing venues. They will now have to compete with the likes of MGM Mirage, Las Vegas Sands and Harrah's, which are lining up to spend millions on building destination casinos in the UK.

Mr Haworth said: "The existing casino operators in Britain have had to tear up their strategy and will now have to play at the higher level. The US operators have a lot of money to invest and want to put it in the UK. There is going to be fierce competition for sites."

The Government is expected to accept the committee's proposal to increase the minimum leisure space of destination casinos, but this is thought unlikely to put off developers.

Comments