The chips are down - Sunday 12th of June 2005

PUT your cards on the table or quit.

That's the ultimatum from city chiefs to firms who want to build a casino and arena complex in Southampton.

Council leaders have given the developers six weeks to come up with a rescue plan for the troubled project.

City insiders say they cannot afford to wait any longer for developers Bravo and US casino firm Ameristar to draw up fresh proposals to build the city's longed-for Olympic-sized ice rink and arena complex.

At a meeting of the leader's standing scrutiny panel, city council leader Councillor Adrian Vinson revealed that detailed talks on the future of the scheme had been held between the council, Bravo and the American firm.

City bosses had given them until the end of July to come back to the table with fresh proposals to help the stalled project regain fresh momentum.

Cllr Vinson said: "We gave Bravo and Ameristar until July to give us a clear view as to what investment they might be willing to make to deliver the first phase of this project."

He said that "other options may be explored" by the council if the firms did not come up with a plan, but would not be drawn further on the course of action the council would pursue.

He said: "In a month's time, we should be clearer."

The city's Labour group leader Councillor June Bridle accused the Liberal Democrat administration of "slacking off" in their commitment to large-scale projects in the city.

She said: "This is so typical. Why are they not working more closely with these people? They are not liaising with them closely enough. It is the way that Labour ran the city."

Conservative group deputy leader Councillor Royston Smith added: "The Liberal Democrats are probably guilty of putting all their eggs in one basket.

"I have been concerned for some time that there was not a fall-back plan."

In April, the Daily Echo revealed how plans for the multi-million pound indoor arena and casino complex in Southampton were thrown into disarray after the government was forced to water down its Gambling Bill to get in through Parliament before the general election on May 5.

Fears were raised that the move could deal a fatal blow to the whole project as the massive gaming centre would have helped pay for the proposed 10,000 seat arena housing an Olympic-sized ice rink.

City bosses have since been forced to go back to the drawing board to see how they can get the £250m scheme off the ground.

A spokesman for Ameristar declined to comment and representatives from Bravo were unavailable.

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