Wheel spins at Leeds casino for last time - Wednesday 15th of October 2008

AS house prices tumble and the credit crunch bites even harder, life can feel like one big game of roulette.

But at one famous Leeds casino, the wheel has spun for the last time, more than 40 years after the first poker game was won.

The slot machines have been packed away at the historic Grosvenor Casino, Moortown, which opened to gamblers in 1968.

The Harrogate Road venue, home to six gaming machines, six roulette tables, two blackjack tables, one casino stud poker table, a restaurant and a bar, closed less than a month after a £13m "new generation" casino opened on Clarence Dock, Leeds city centre.

A spokeswoman for Rank Group, which owns the two Grosvenor Casinos in Leeds, blamed the rise in casino gaming duty for the closure and said there were no plans to close the citys other branch, at the Merrion Centre.

She said: "The casino is no longer commercially viable, in part because of the increase in casino gaming duty.

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"The rate of duty for the Leeds casino increased by 500 per cent in 2007, a level which would be difficult for any business to absorb.

"The casino employed approximately 25 team members, the majority of which have been redeployed to other Grosvenor Casinos.

"The reception area of the casino is remaining open for the next few weeks, to provide a transport service to the Grosvenor Casino in Merrion Way."

Shares in Rank Group fell by seven per cent in March 2007 after the firm said changes to casino gaming duty would cost it £8m a year.

However, the closure is not thought to be caused by the smoking ban, which was initially feared to have a major impact on casinos.

Rank Group spent £6,000 on an aluminium smoking shelter at the Merrion Way branch, but providing a shelter at the Grade II-listed Moortown venue was more difficult, because of building restrictions.

To tackle the ban, the firm also launched a "Smoke Busters" scheme in July 2007, in which workers at the regions Grosvenor Casinos were challenged to quit the cigs to raise funds for charity.

In March 2007, plans for a new Las Vegas-style supercasino in Leeds and 16 other towns and cities were rejected by the House of Lords.

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