Aspinall casinos cancellation fails

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JOHN ASPINALL, the casino operator, yesterday failed to block an application for new licences for five London casinos which were raided last year by police investigating allegations of inappropriate practice.

John Mathew QC, for Mr Aspinall, asked Thames magistrates' court, east London, to examine outstanding requests from the Gaming Board for the cancellation of licences for the five casinos in Mayfair and Soho owned by London Clubs International. They include the Ritz and Les Ambassadeurs. He claimed 'past misconduct' made the company unfit to hold a licence.

But the licensing committee accepted London Clubs's application that the cancellation requests - together with the company's counter-moves for licence renewal - be dropped and that the court consider applications for new licences for the casinos, whose management has been restructured by a new chairman, Sir Gordon Booth, a former diplomat.

That application was supported by the Metropolitan Police and the Gaming Board, which instigated the raids on the clubs.

Mr Mathew said that by adjourning the cancellation proceedings the full facts about the complaints which led to the cancellation requests would remain secret. They had to be before the court because 'past misconduct' was relevant in relation to fitness to hold a licence.

Christopher Moger, for the Gaming Board, said the complaints included unacceptable methods of stimulating gambling demand and disquiet about the way London Clubs estimated the 'drop' - the total amount wagered - in its casinos, which led to misleading comparisons with its competitors.

George Carman QC, for London Clubs, said there was no proper evidence of misconduct in the past. If cancellation requests were heard in court, London Clubs would defend itself against the allegations. He said: 'We don't have one word from Mr Mathew that Mr Aspinall has got a shred of evidence.'

He raised doubts about whether Mr Aspinall's objections were based on altruism and public interest. 'You may think Mr Aspinall's own gaming interests come into play.'

After the decision to let London Clubs apply for new licences, Mr Mathew pressed the magistrates not to grant these on the grounds of 'past misconduct'.

The hearing continues.

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