Casino 'a good bet for town gateway' - Saturday 12th of March 2005

Station Hill: bingo bosses chip in A GLITZY casino should be included in plans to revitalise the town centre Station Hill area, bingo hall bosses believe. The area outside the railway station is set for a major revamp after John Madejski???s Sackville Properties firm spent ??27 million buying the plot. New space may be found for Mecca bingo hall, which is currently at the heart of the site, although detailed plans have yet to be released. And now Rank Group, which owns the bingo hall, has suggested a casino, with roulette tables, bars and restaurants, would work well on the patch. ???If the developer was planning to include shops and restaurants, it would be logical to have a casino as well,??? commercial director Nigel Sibley said. ???I do not know whether the developers have given the idea any thought.??? Rank already holds a 66-year lease on the plot, which means plans to develop the site will need to include the hall. Mr Sibley is looking forward to talking with bosses at Sackville about the possibility of getting a brand new venue built for the group. ???We are delighted because the area needs redevelopment ??? it will be great news for Reading to get that whole area redeveloped. ???Our situation is that we have a lease that runs for quite a long time and we will be able to work with [Sackville] to see how that goes forward. ???If it???s part of their development and there???s a way we could get a better club, that would be fantastic.??? He added: ???We have not had direct contact with [Sackville] yet, but I???m sure it will happen soon.??? Mr Sibley was also adamant if Sackville wanted to bulldoze the entire site and build another home for the club, the new one would have to be up before this old one is pulled down. ???There???s no way that we would close down a club to reopen it six or eight months later. It would be disastrous for us, our customers and our staff. ???In the legality of having a lease, we have certain rights.??? He added: ???We do not want to be difficult, but equally we have got an important business.??? Work to develop the site, which also includes the old Alder Valley bus station, Garrard Street car park, 13 shops and two office blocks, should start within two years, if Sackville gets planning consent later this year.

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