Blues Casino: It's time to gamble - Sunday 12th of June 2005

TOMORROW is D-Day on the make or break decision on whether to bid for permission to build a super-casino in Birmingham.A positive outcome is vital to Blues hopes of securing a £220 million stadium at Saltley, which would involve a partner-ship with the Las Vegas Sands gambling group.

The new stadium - supported by a petition signed by 10,000 fans handed to the city council yesterday - can only get off the ground if the development is backed by the financial security offered by an adjoining casino.Blues managing director Karren Brady presented the first phase of a 50,000-signature petition yesterday and said the response of the Midland public to the £200 million project had been "fantastic".Blues want to be tenants of a 50,000-seat, multi-sport facility incorporating a super-casino on land currently occupied by and surrounding the Birmingham Wheels Park.

The City of Birmingham stadium would also host concerts, exhibitions and be surrounded by a "sporting village", with amenities for tennis, swimming and retail outlets."We are going to present 50,000 signatures in five lots of 10,000. This is the first batch," said Ms Brady."We want the city council to realise that people are thinking about this and that it's something they want."It's not only signed by football fans or Birmingham City fans, but a wide cross-section of the public from all over the region."This project would create thousands of jobs, generate tourism, wealth and give us a landmark, state-of-the-art facility to put on a variety of wonderful events."

But the club's hopes could yet be dashed:* Councillors from the three political parties are objecting on religious and ethical grounds to a casino;* There are plans for a rival casino at the NEC, in which the council has a financial interest;* The Government has so far allotted only one super-casino, at Blackpool, and has yet to make it clear whether it would consider other applications.The city council's executive management team is to discuss the massive scheme tomorrow. Coun Ken Hardeman, cabinet member for regeneration, accepted that the council would be in a difficult position if it had to choose between Saltley and the NEC as the best site for a casino.

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