Glasgow looks to be on a loser as a centre for new super-casinos - Tuesday 12th of April 2005
AMBITIOUS plans to create a ??162m Las Vegas-style super-casino in Glasgow by 2007 as part of the proposed redevelopment of the SECC site, looked doomed last night after the government agreed there should be only one super-casino in the UK in the near future.
Tessa Jowell, the culture secretary, agreed there should be just one major gambling house instead of the previously proposed eight in order to get backing from the Conservative opposition to push the government's gambling bill through parliament. The legislation tightens up regulation of the gaming industry.
The location of the casino has not been decided,but a government source conceded Blackpool had "a very strong case".
Last night, Lesley Sawers, chief executive of Glasgow Chamber of Commerce, said: "This is a blow to the development of Glasgow as a tourist centre. Super casinos have the potential to bring a lot of visitors and income to the city. Even if the initial licence goes to Blackpool at this time, it is vital Scotland continues to actively pursue any possibility of future licences."
The Tories had previously agreed to accept four super-casinos but it is understood that, in the negotiations between government and opposition over which parliamentary business could be passed before dissolution, they would only agree to one because the Lords had not fully considered the bill.
The source also noted there was provision in the bill that, should both Houses agree, the government could extend the number of super-casinos if it felt there were suitable applications.
Last night, John Whittingdale, Ms Jowell's Conservative shadow, welcomed the agreement with government, saying there were "real fears" about the impact of regional casinos on crime and gambling addiction. Thus, only one regional casino was appropriate as a prototype to assess its impact.
"Its location should be a leisure resort where the regeneration potential is greatest. The case for locating such a casino in Blackpool is very strong," he added.
Ann McKechin, the Labour MP for Glasgow Maryhill, noted it was only ever likely Scotland would get one super-casino under the initial proposal for eight UK-wide. Now, there was only going to be one across the UK, the SECC plan was "history".
She said: "There will be considerable disappointment among the city's business community . . . but there is sufficient momentum and dynamism in the economy of Glasgow that this will be only a short-term setback.
"I'm not a gambler myself but even I might place a bet on Blackpool being the likeliest contender."
Initially, six Scottish sites were suggested: three in Glasgow; one in Edinburgh; one in Aberdeen and one in Dundee.