Every casino will be able to host live entertainment - Friday 12th of August 2005

All casinos built in the United Kingdom will in future have the potential to host live stage entertainment, says one of Britain’s leading experts on gaming law.

John Hagan, partner at Harris Hagan solicitors, rejected claims that the one regional ‘super casino’ permitted by government would be the only site large enough to house performances. The lawyer, whose firm has advised global giants Kerzner International and MGM Mirage, insisted all 17 British sites to be licensed over the next two years, including those in the new ‘small’ and ‘large’ casino category, can opt to do likewise.

“There will be opportunities for live entertainment in small and large casinos, not just regional ones. Small, large and regional casinos will have a minimum non-gambling area of 250m sq, 500m sq and 1,500m sq respectively. Although this will include bar and restaurant areas, it does leave scope for the provision of live entertainment,? explained Hagan.

“Also, the provision of live entertainment may appeal to the local authorities and therefore enhance competitors’ chances in the contest for new gaming licences. There are going to be a lot of considerations in play when applications are made and live entertainment will be one of those factors.?

Under the Gambling Act 2005, passed in April, licences will be granted for one regional casino, eight large casinos and eight small casinos. The law has also introduced the requirement of an area devoted to non-gambling activities including entertainment, an entirely new statutory concept.

In fact, legislation prohibiting casinos from presenting entertainment was relaxed two years ago. Since then, operators have begun introducing live shows into their venues. The Rank Group, the UK’s second largest operator, regularly schedules performances in 90% of its sites.

At the end of 2003, Britain’s largest casino operator Stanley Leisure launched the UK’s first cabaret casino in almost 40 years, the Star City Casino in Birmingham. The complex includes a showroom holding up to 230 people and hosts an ongoing programme of variety shows. However, existing casinos are limited by their size explained Hagan.

“Two years has been a relatively short amount of time to adapt [to the change of law]. A significant number of casinos are moving into larger premises, where there is space to offer entertainment. We are gradually seeing more and more entertainment, where they have space,? he said.

Gaming consultant Mark Etches has sounded a note of caution to entertainers hoping to find employment in the new-style casinos, stressing that the shows offered by large and small casinos are likely to be minor-scale and used to create an atmosphere or boost increased trade on quiet nights.

He added: “The regional casino will be able to support a substantial entertainment venue and the other models will be seeking to supply their customers with live entertainment of a sort. But no one should expect Las Vegas-style shows. I don’t think any one should be under the illusion that it will create an explosion in the entertainment industry.

“However, a regional casino in Blackpool would create more added value for the entertainment sector than any other suggestion I can think of.?

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