Casino plan for Excel revived - Tuesday 13th of January 2009

Excel could still become Londons premier gambling venue if plans to open a casino on the site are revived.

Reports this week claimed Excel chiefs were in negotiations with casino operators to open a casino at the Royal Docks venue.

But The Wharf understands no firm decisions have been made about the proposal and any final decision is some way off, with Newham council set to have the final say on where any casino will be built in the borough.

A spokesperson for Newham Council said: “It is anticipated that a licensing competition will be run later this year from which a winning site and casino operator will secure the casino premises licence.

"We are committed to achieving the greatest regeneration benefit for local people by awarding the licence through an open and transparent process.

"It would not be appropriate at this time to discuss any interested parties.”

But Excels owners confirmed they would be interested in incorporating a casino at the venue.

An Excel statement said: "Excel London is one of a number of companies working with Newham and casino operators to consider the feasibility of having a casino on their site.

"At this stage no formal decision has been made as to whether this is a viable option for the business."

The speculation comes on the back of the 2005 Gambling Act, which awarded 16 councils licences to open casinos at the start of 2007.

At the time the Government viewed casino creation as an ideal way of regenerating under-developed areas, with Manchester being chosen as the venue for a super-casino.

Newham was the only London borough to win a licence and Excel was seen as the obvious location since it already attracts over one million visitors a year to its various events.

But the casino plans were shelved when the government cooled its interest after Gordon Brown became Prime Minister 18 months ago.

Under the original plans the Excel casino would have had up to 150 fruit machines, a £4,000 maximum prize and between 1,500 and 3,500 square metres of space.

Former Excel chief executive Jamie Buchan said in 2007: "I believe that the location of a large casino in Newham can, if carefully managed and integrated into a wider leisure development, act as a catalyst for further regeneraton and employment within this ambitious borough.

"The opportunity to incorporate a casino within our plans could prove significant in attracting further leisure operators to the Excel campus."

There would certainly be no lack of space to fit a casino on the site. Expansion work on the venue got underway last October, which will increase capacity at Excel by 50 per cent by 2010.

Other mooted venues for a casino in Newham included Stratford City and West Hams Boleyn Ground.

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