Aspers Casino opens in Northampton today - Monday 30th of June 2008

Charity fundraisers, loyalty cards and live entertainment are the carrots being offered by the new £10million Aspers Casino in Northampton to draw in customers when it finally opens tomorrow (26) at noon.

Although there are already three casinos in the town, growing company Aspers believe there is enough demand for a fourth even in the current financial climate.

They are taking advantage of changes in gambling law allowing more casinos to be licensed and already have their eye on Milton Keynes for a new venture.

And the two-storey venue in Commerical Street in Northampton town centre, has the potential to expand to a third floor if they play their cards right and entice a large enough crowd.

General manager Mark Darnell said they differed from other venues due to their high specification and design.

"The fit out, design and ambience is more upmarket and brand new. I think a mix of people will come, we are trying to cater for all.

"Traditionally it is a male dominated industry but we find ladies come to gamble but also for the live music.

We plug it as a world of entertainment not just a casino.

It is a nice place to come and have a night out. Some people come and they never gamble.

"We also want to establish links with the community. We will be holding charity nights and have made links with the council.

We want to encourage business groups and womens and mens groups to meet here."

With this in mind the building has been designed with two distinct areas, the dark, intense ground floor and a lighter, more airy first floor.

"There is a desire in the industry to move away from the seedy gambling dens that people perceive.

A smoke free environment makes this easier. We deliberately wanted to create two different aspects," said Mr Darnell.

Aspers is also one of the first casinos in the country where membership is not required (following the 2005 Gambling Act).

Anyone over the age of 18 can come in, but if they look under 21 they will be required to present identification.

It also has a loyalty card scheme, where customers can earn points which can then be spent on the tables, drink or food.

The creation of a new building on the site of a former brewery, has also meant the ability to install the latest state-of-the-art equipment.

The casino includes 40 electronic roulette machines which are linked to the live tables via cameras.

A person can play roulette on a machine discreetly in the corner of a room without having to join the open intensity of the table.

Mr Darnell explained: "Some people like to be hidden out the way and some like to be the centre of attention when they come through the door."

And for those who have never gambled or played cards before the casino will be running beginner nights in the near future.

Mr Darnell added: "The gaming staff are encouraged to show people how to play. Some people are scared to death as they think they will look an idiot and others dont mind admitting they dont know how to play."

The first few months will be a time to test the waters but the venue does have the flexibility to expand and alter to meet customers needs.

There will be the possibility of hiring the top floor for private parties and Aspers are already looking ahead to the Christmas party season.

There are also smoking terraces on both floors covered by awnings, which are a huge benefit as the industry was badly effective when the ban was first introduced.

There is no official dress code for the casino despite its upmarket decor, but it will be at the discretion of staff. For example caps are not allowed and customers may have difficulty getting in wearing flip flops or scruffy jeans.

Mr Darnell explained: "We would allow fancy dress if it was for a party night but no extremes."

But at the end of the day, is it the best time to be opening a casino when most people are feeling the pinch and have a reduction in disposable income?

Well it is if they are feeling lucky, according to Mr Darnell.

"In recessionary times people think if they go out with £20 they can come back with £40, and they can."

First impression

Striking black and white ball-shaped chandeliers, grandiose wood effect columns and plush red and gold padded seats, greet the customer once they have passed through the elegant polished reception of Aspers Casino.

It is a feast for the eyes with orange and yellow padding adorning one wall set against patterned mauve carpets.

But despite corners of colour, black is the predominant theme on the ground floor.

The black tiled ceiling is set with hundreds of twinkling spotlights, and there are black doors, black rimmed tables, black pillars and black plasma screen televisions.

The only beacon of light is the crisp, white bar, lined floor to ceiling with multi-coloured bottles.

In the corner of the bar seating area is a small stage for tribute bands, surrounded by lush curtains, and almost seeming to be tucked out the way.

The gaming floor has the traditional atmosphere of a dark, plush casino where you can never tell what time it is and when it is best to cut your losses and go home.

But upstairs is a different atmosphere altogether.

It has large windows on either side, almost unheard of in casinos, which are also notorious for having no clocks.

The carpet, although the same pattern, moves from the dark mauve of downstairs to a mustard brown which is complemented by lightly patterned beige wall paper.

There is far less black and the restaurant area is dressed with cream curtains and neutral furnishings.

Even the toilets are inviting with grey tiled floors and fresh white walls, again finished to a higher than average spec.

You get the sense that this floor will be where ladies might choose to lounge as the hardcore gambling goes on beneath their feet on the floor below.

Meanwhile the menu at the restaurant is simple but varied with seafood platters, tandoori chicken, sirloin steak, smoked salmon sandwiches and full english breakfast, all at reasonable prices.

Gaming facts

Aspers Casino

-Employs 120 staff

-Open from noon until 6am seven days a week

-Capacity for 800 people

-Bar serving alcohol from noon until 4am or 5am

-60 seater restaurant serving meals noon until 11.30pm, sandwiches all day and breakfast 11.30pm to 3am

-20 slot machines with a £4,000 maximum

-40 state of the art electronic roulettes.

-16 live gaming tables for roulette, blackjack, three card poker and two way holdem poker

-60 seat poker room with potential to expand it to 100

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