St Pierre Park ‘unlikely’ to host island’s casino - Friday 12th of August 2005

A CASINO may never be built in Guernsey.

Concerns about its viability have been growing, particularly after it was claimed that St Pierre Park Hotel had requested fees to be cut by 50%.

‘Policy Council said very, very rightly that this is not a level playing field,’ Deputy Mike Torode told the States.

He believed that the proposal would be grossly unfair to those hotels and operators who were initially interested in a casino. Deputy Torode suspected that the States might well decide there was no future in such a facility. He believed the island was unlikely to see a casino at St Pierre Park and the sort of money needed to be spent there would not materialise.

The hotel does not want to spend as much on refurbishment as the States wanted – it has offered £15m., rather than £25m. – and Deputy Torode suspected that the concession could be surrendered just before its expiry in September 2006.

Last week it was announced that plans had reached a stand off.

Tom Scott, chairman of CI Traders, the hotel’s owner, was adamant that a casino was viable there, but he considered that a site in Town, possibly the old Guernsey Brewery site, was an option.

Commerce and Employment minister Stuart Falla told the States that although negotiations were continuing, it appeared the concessionaire had little appetite to follow the detail of the States resolution.

A consultation paper has been drafted and once it has gone to the board in the next fortnight, the options will be assessed.

Deputy Falla said that it could save time if the plans for St Pierre Park were scrapped.

But some States members still believe such a facility is a viable option for the island.

‘I feel that the whole process has been a bureaucratic nightmare with far too onerous a cost placed on the applicants,’ said Deputy John Gollop yesterday.

He believes it is a pity many well established hotels lost the opportunity to set up a casino.

‘As a first choice, I would like St Pierre Park to get on with it and other businesses like La Grande Mare and OGH to have a fair crack of the whip.’

Others believe alternatives need to be examined.

‘While I support St Pierre Park being held to its word under the present arrangement, if it’s the case that it is not realistic and won’t happen, I think perhaps the alternative site at the old Guernsey Brewery might be suitable,’ said Deputy Rhoderick Matthews.

‘I would like to see a change in the law because I opposed the sole-concession approach. I would like there to be competition in a controlled way so La Grande Mare and the OGH and maybe someone else could put in an application.’

Deputy Leon Gallienne said: ‘If someone wants to do it, it’s always an option, but whether the States members will agree to it is another matter.

‘But if we are going to move the goalposts now, it should go back to the Policy Council and be brought to the States so we can decide what we want. It would be good to get a public consultation exercise on whether it is necessary.’

Original proposals for St Pierre Park were agreed in September 2003, but in mid-2004 the owner revealed plans for a scaled-down development.

These would have to go back to the House for approval and the Policy Council would not give its support.

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