Odds on for Ladbroke's return to city casinos

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The Independent Online
SPECULATION is growing that Ladbroke is close to making its comeback in London casinos via a pounds 50m-plus deal to buy City Clubs, the private company that owns Maxims, Charlie Chester's and the Golden Horseshoe.

Ladbroke, owner of hotels, betting shops and Texas do-it-yourself stores, lost its licence to run casinos in London 15 years ago after the Gaming Board said it had sent gamblers gifts as a way of luring them away from other clubs.

However, the door for Ladbroke to return to the London market was recently opened slightly by a change in the administration of gaming licences. All executives at casinos now have to hold licences, which lessens the risk of a casino losing its main licence because of a misdemeanour by an individual.

City Clubs is owned by Trevor Hemmings, who made a fortune out of buying and subsequently selling Pontins holiday camps to Scottish & Newcastle Breweries.

City Clubs would give Ladbroke a spread across the London casino market. High-rollers use Maxims, while the Golden Horseshoe is more middle market. Gamblers at Charlie Chester's can bet as little as pounds 1. Annual profits from the clubs are understood to exceed pounds 6m.

Neither Ladbroke or Maxims would comment yesterday.