Millennium Stadium could be supercasino - Tuesday 12th of April 2005

THE Millennium Stadium could become one of eight venues for super-casinos across the UK.

If Labour wins the election it is understood to be planning to use a loophole in the Gambling Bill to raise the number of supercasinos from one to eight.

Controversial plans for regional casinos with unlimited-prize jackpot machines across the country were shelved after church groups, opposition parties and many Labour MPs voiced their concern over the plans.

A deal was struck between Labour and the Conservatives before Parliament was dissolved last week which meant the Gambling Bill became law because the Government agreed to the limit of one supercasino, which will be built in Blackpool.

But a clause known as a reserve power could be used to increase the number and one of the cities mooted as a possible venue is Cardiff.

The stadium was named as a potential site alongside the new Wembley Stadium and the Millennium Dome, as well as Blackpool.

There is land available at Westgate Plaza next to the Millennium Stadium on Westgate Street, which the WRU hopes to sell.

Stadium manager Paul Sergeant last night said he was unaware of any plans for it to become a venue for a supercasino.

But he did not rule out the possibility of a supercasino being built there in future.

He said, "I must admit I am surprised by this. We will look at anything as an event, but I am not sure how the legalities will pan out for this.

"I would love to try it on a one-off basis, as a party-type event, and I know that happens. But a supercasino is probably not along the same lines.

"It might be something we would consider as far as Westgate Plaza is concerned, I think that could lend itself to this.

"As far as I am aware, in our previous planning consent for the land we had permission to build a casino.

"That land is up for sale and we have got a number of interested parties in it. There a number of people who have expressed an interest but it is very early days there.

"I am not sure if it would work were the Millennium Stadium selected - that would be the same for other venues. It is not something you could shoe horn into any venue such as this because you have got your normal business to be getting on with.

"You have got to have dedicated space and it has got to be there 24 hours a day, seven days a week. If it is not there permanently people would not know whether it is open or closed."

Jon Owen Jones, who hopes to be re-elected MP for the marginal Cardiff Central seat, the constituency where the Millennium Stadium is situated, said, "I am opposed to the idea of supercasinos. I am not aware of any loophole in the Bill and it sounds to me that somebody is flying a kite or trying to cause mischief.

"Given that the Liberal leader of the council has swanned off to Los Angeles, all expenses paid, to look at casinos I'm sure he would be delighted. But as far as I'm aware there is no loophole and if I am re-elected I will make sure there isn't one."

Jenny Willott, the Liberal Democrat candidate for Cardiff Central said, "The funds a supercasino will bring into Cardiff will pay for the leisure facilities in the area, such as a new ice rink and swimming pool. Hopefully the council would be able to use the funds for local services as well.

"It is Jon Owen Jones's party pushing this Bill through at national level, so it is slightly bizarre for him to be condemning it here in the heart of Wales."

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