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22 April 2007

Super Casino, Sportcity, Manchester

The first regional casino or 'super casino' in the UK will be constructed in East Manchester at Sportcity. This site is
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The first regional casino or ‘super casino’ in the UK will be constructed in East Manchester at Sportcity. This site is near the City of Manchester Stadium – built for the Commonwealth Games – in Beswick, a poor area of east Manchester.

This was made possible by the The Gambling Act 2005 that revised many regulations relating to gambling in the UK and made provision for a number of ‘destination resort casinos’ in the style of Las Vegas. The siting of the first Super Casino has been the subject of much controversy and competition in the UK since early 2006.

Originally eight regional casinos were proposed but concerns in the national media and by social and religious groups meant that only one casino of the largest size was permitted along with a further eight large and eight small casinos of a smaller size and with reduced jackpot limits.

CASINO DEFINITIONS

The ‘super casino’ will have a minimum customer area of 5,000m² and at most 1,250 unlimited-jackpot slot machines. Large casinos will have a minimum area of 1,000m² and up to 150 slot machines with a maximum jackpot of £4,000. The small casinos will have a minimum customer area of 750m², up to 80 slot machines and a jackpot of £4,000.

POSSIBLE SITES

In May 2006, a shortlist of seven sites, selected from various ones submitted by local councils, was announced for the location of the regional casino. These were: The O2, Greenwich, London (ex-Millennium Dome), Cardiff, Blackpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Sheffield, and Glasgow.

“The first regional casino or ‘super casino’ in the UK will be constructed at Sportcity in East Manchester.”

The O2 site, which was a hot favourite, was involved in controversy after it was discovered that John Prescott (the UK Deputy Prime Minister) had stayed at the ranch of Philip Anschutz, whose Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG) is involved in the redevelopment of the dome site as a sporting and entertainment venue. In August 2006 it was reported that construction on the O2 site had already started, despite the site of the casino being reportedly stated by the government to still be in the consultation phase.

SUPER CASINO ANNOUNCEMENT

At the end of January 2007 it was announced by the Casino Advisory Panel (CAP) that the first Regional Casino would be built in East Manchester near the City of Manchester Stadium (Manchester was a 16-1 outsider). This was a shock to the Blackpool and The O2 bids, both of whom were regarded as the joint-favourites.

The Blackpool bid organisers pledged to continue the work in getting government approval for a super casino. Professor Crow, chairman of the CAP, has said that the panel’s decision is ‘watertight’ if it came to a legal challenge from any losing bidder. The Culture Secretary, Tessa Jowell, has already announced that there are no further plans to approve more super casinos in the 2007 parliamentary session.

The CAP also recommended that the areas for large casinos should be Great Yarmouth, Kingston-upon-Hull, Leeds, Middlesbrough, Milton Keynes, Newham, Solihull and Southampton. Also small casinos should be in Bath and North East Somerset, Dumfries and Galloway, East Lindsey, Luton, Scarborough, Swansea, Torbay and Wolverhampton.

“The casino will generate an estimated 2,700 direct and indirect jobs in one of the most deprived parts of the UK.”

MANCHESTER SITE

Manchester City Council and New East Manchester will now develop the first Regional Casino at Sportcity in Manchester. The casino will generate an estimated 2,700 direct and indirect jobs in one of the most deprived parts of the UK.

Councillor Richard Leese, leader of Manchester City Council, said: “We knew we had a very strong case. It remains our view that piloting casinos in a variety of locations across the country offers the best possible test of social impact and regeneration benefits.

“However, if there is to be one pilot regional casino scheme it must be in Manchester. We believe the proposed site at Sportcity in east Manchester offers a robust test bed for the successful implementation of an, as yet, untested concept in the UK.”

Tom Russell, chief executive of New East Manchester Ltd, said: “Sportcity in east Manchester is an ideal destination for a regional casino. Not only is Manchester a major European city but it has a diverse city region on our doorstep.

The potential benefits of this scheme to East Manchester and the City are much greater than any other possible type of development on the Sportcity site whether measured in terms of new leisure facilities or jobs. Bringing a £265m development and 2,700 direct and indirect jobs to East Manchester will benefit the whole of the Northwest region.”

“The design for Manchester’s new super casino has not yet been finalised.”

The proposed regional casino site will also contain an entertainment complex with a range of facilities such as a multipurpose arena, a swimming pool, an urban sports venue, restaurants, bars, a nightclub and a hotel. The licence will allow Manchester to build a venue for up to 1,250 unlimited-jackpot gaming machines. Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell has said MPs will be given the final say – via a Commons vote – on the proposals.

PLANNING AND CONSTRUCTION

Manchester City Council and East Manchester Ltd are playing their cards close to their chest. The design for the new casino has not yet been finalised and no construction bids will be put into place until at least the end of 2007 when further announcements will be made.

Sheppard Robson has already thrown its hat into the ring in the battle to design Manchester’s new Super Casino. The architect Ian Simpson may also submit a design if allowed. Improved transport links to the complex are already under way, including the Phase III extension of the Manchester Metrolink tram east to Droylsden, which received £520m of funding from the government in July 2006.

In February 2008, the UK Government annount the cancellation of the Manchester Super Casino project. Smaller regional casinos will be created instead and a new regeneration plan will be created for the east of Manchester.

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