US casinos still keen on investing in UK gaming

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The Independent Online

One of America's top 10 quoted casino groups has announced its backing for the Government's proposed relaxation of gambling laws, despite an influential committee of MPs and peers last week recommending restrictions on deregulation.

Tim Hinkley, the chief executive of Isle of Capri, which is already involved in casino developments in the Midlands, said his company's plans were still on track and that he intended to press ahead with investment in the UK.

His comments will further allay fears that large US gaming groups might be put off investing in the UK because of certain limits to gaming liberalisation recommended by the committee, which was charged with scrutinising the Government's draft gambling Bill before it reaches the floor of the House of Commons.

The committee suggested the number of high-value jackpot machines allowed in casinos should be limited. It said that in large casinos, it favoured the ratio of eight machines to each gaming table, while in the even bigger "resort" category of casino envisaged by the Government, the cap should be about 1,250.

Profits generated from slot machines are seen as the key to persuading casino groups to invest in the country's gaming industry. Any restrictions were seen as potentially putting that investment in danger.

But Mr Hinkley said: "From everything we've seen thus far, it doesn't make any difference at all to our plans. We think it is the right idea to be investing in the UK. It is a great place to do business."

Isle of Capri is involved in gaming developments linked to the new football stadium being built by Coventry City. It has also formed a joint venture called Blue Chip Casinos which has a casino in Dudley.

Although the Government's proposed liberalisation of gaming laws survived the scrutiny committee intact, one major stumbling block for US investors is still the relatively high levels of tax that UK casino operators pay compared with some states in the US. A spokesman for the Treasury did not slam the door on the possibility of gaming tax being reviewed as the gambling Bill makes its passage through Parliament.