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   Inside Out - North West: Monday November 6, 2006

Super casinos

Casino
Super casinos - the way ahead for Blackpool?

In Blackpool's heyday, families would flood the famous beach, and stay in hotels and guest houses for a fortnight.

Today - with cheap flights and more choice - the town is looking a bit frayed round the edges.

Blackpool is still Britain's number one holiday destination but it's struggling to retain that title.

Twenty years ago, 17 million people came to the North West's capital of fun.

In summer 2007 it's expecting just 10 million to grace its promenade and beaches.

The town's lowest moment to date probably came when the Labour Party said that it wouldn't hold its annual conferences in Blackpool any more - even though it had been coming to the Winter Gardens since Ramsay MacDonald was Prime Minister in the 1920s.

But Blackpool has an ace up it's sleeve - it plans to transform the town into the British Vegas.

Regenerating Blackpool

In the British casino game it's all about winning the regeneration argument and leading with a strong hand.

The better case a town can make for revitalising itself, the better chance there is of it winning the one licence that's currently available for a money making super-casino.

Doug Garrett, Chief Executive of ReBlackpool, explains his vision for the future:

"We have aspirations in Blackpool for a cluster of casinos.

"We've always said that we believe that the mass that can be produced where you have a number of these together - and all of the elements around them - will help regenerate the town.

"Our aspirations are for many more than one."

Viva Blackpool?

So what could the future hold for Blackpool, and who's going to make the money if the super casino comes to Lancashire?

There would be no jackpot limit on the 1,2000 slot machines, and the casino would create about 7,000 jobs.

Flamingo casino
Viva Las Vegas - will Blackpool rival its success?

However, large swathes of Blackpool's buildings would be demolished to house the complex.

Inside Out visits Las Vegas to get a glimpse of what the future could hold for the Lancashire town

With its themed hotels and famous strip, Las Vegas is one of America's premier tourist destinations.

We visit one of Vegas' iconic hotels - The Flamingo - which boasts a staggering 3,600 rooms.

It is owned by Harrahs, the world's biggest casino operator who've announced they're willing to spend £400 million on a gambling entertainment complex in Blackpool.

A casino like Flamingos takes between several hundred thousand to $1 million a day- gambling is big business.

Dealing a strong hand

Staff training is all-important in the casino business, and Blackpool is anxious to get ahead of the competition.

The UK's first Gaming Academy to teach trainee croupiers the tricks of the trade has already been opened in the town.

And even if the town loses the super casino bid, the students will still come out on top because wherever the new casinos are, they'll need croupiers.

Colleen McLaughlin, Gaming Academy Manager says:

"We teach them how to deal five games which are blackjack, roulette, three card, five card poker and punto banco.

"And we also talk to them about the gaming environment so we fully prepare them for the casino industry.

"We talk to them about the legal aspects of the job and what's expected of them customer service wise, so we try to give them a full overview really of the industry that they're going into."

If successful, Blackpool wants to give over half of the casino jobs to local people.

But it's not all about gambling - the huge planned mega resort will also have entertainment and shopping.

In 2006 - for the first time - Vegas made more money from retailing than from gaming - Blackpool hopes to cash in too.

Las Vegas has also been hugely successful in using gambling to attract tourism and new money to regenerate the area.

The chips are down...

Blackpool faces strong competition in its bid for the super casino crown.

Rival super casino bids

* Blackpool
* Manchester
* Sheffield
* Cardiff
* Newcastle
* Glasgow
* Greenwich

Blackpool was voted the number one choice for Britain's first super casino in a poll of 1,036 people carried out on behalf of the resort and presented to the Casino Advisory Panel (Sept 2006).

According to the survey, 38% of people said Blackpool was their preferred choice, followed by Greenwich (14%), Manchester (10%), Glasgow (6%), Sheffield (4%), Newcastle (4%) and Cardiff (3%).

Amongst its opponents is nearby North West rival Manchester.

But Blackpool is confident that it has a strong hand.

It believes that the casino will be the catalyst to transform the area from a resort in decline into a resort with a world-class future.

However, not everyone is convinced that a super casino is a good thing.

Critics of the bid say that it could lead to a rise in gambling addicts and crime.

One thing's for certain - there won't be a decision on the super casino until 2007.

Until then the chips are still down and there's everything to play for and Blackpool hopes to have a few aces up its sleeve.

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Crew of the alleged mission
Northern Horizon - crew of the alleged mission

Titanic's missing treasures

Inside Out investigates how relics plundered from the Titanic, the world's most famous shipwreck, are up for sale on the black market.

Our investigation has found that a porthole from the White Star liner, which sank in 1912 with the loss of 1,500 lives, is priced at £20,000.

Crockery recovered from the debris field two and a half miles down on the bed of the Atlantic has sold for as little as £60.

Public display?

The Titanic is protected by rulings from a US court which forbid the sale of relics and give salvage rights to an Atlanta-based company called RMS Titanic Inc, only on condition items raised are preserved and put on public display.

Porthole
Titanic task - port hole raised from the deep

It's not known how the porthole came to be in the hands of a German marine antiques dealer, but its existence came to light when it was taken to an engineering company on Merseyside for verification.

Utley's Engineering, of St Helen's, manufactured the portholes for the liner in 1908 and still have detailed records.

Managing director Tom Utley said serial numbers on the bronze "Patent Ventilating Portlight", brought to him earlier in 2006 for verification, were definitely from Titanic.

He said that he had also repaired a similar relic for an agent claiming to represent an American museum.

Mr Utley told Inside Out:

"We had a phone call from a dealer and he wanted it authenticating by us because if it has come off the ship obviously he would get more money for it.

"I have absolutely no doubt it was from Titanic."

Mr Utley said he'd been told the relic was salvaged by an illegal expedition to the wreck site.

Expeditions to the Titanic

Dozens of expeditions to the Titanic have taken their toll on the liner, and experts monitoring the wreck say mini-submarines, some of which have landed on the deck, have caused extensive damage.

Northern Horizon equipment
Northern Horizon's on deck equipment

Many artefacts have been removed, 6,000 of them legitimately by RMS Titanic Inc.

But some expeditions did not apparently have official approval.

In 2002 a former Hull trawler was chartered to take the French mini-submarine, Abyssub, to the wreck site, 700 miles off Newfoundland.

The Northern Horizon was skippered by a well-know salvage operator, Capt Gary Goodyear, from South Yorkshire.

Also on board was Graham Jessop, a member of one of the industry's best-known families.

Two month voyage

The ship was at sea for a total of two months - at an estimated cost of £6,000 a day.

Documents lodged in an American court reveal that a Polish crewman alleged relics had been raised.

But the BBC has been unable to find any evidence to support this allegation.

Northern Horizon
The Northern Horizon - no official approval?

RMS Titanic Inc has denied any involvement with the voyage, although at least three people on board the ship were former employees of the company or its subsidiaries.

Bill Willard, a Titanic expert who twice dived the wreck with a midget submersible, says Titanic is being badly damaged by expeditions, some of which now carry tourists:

"As long as there is greed, as long as there's a chance for people to make a tremendous profit off this, there will be an opportunity for someone to go out there and steal artefacts.

"The North Atlantic is tough to police."

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Arts and Crafts houses

Blackwell
Blackwell - stunning Arts and crafts design

There are so many things that attract tourists to the Lake District - the beautiful scenery, the legacy of Wordsworth and Beatrix Potter.

A recent addition to this list is a new Arts and Crafts trail which has been set up to celebrate the architecture of the Lakes.

Inside Out visits some of the landmark houses on the route.

The Arts and Crafts Movement

The Arts and Crafts Movement was hugely influential from the late 1800s to the early part of the 20th Century.

Amongst its most famous designers were William Morris and Charles Rennie Mackintosh.

This revolution in design was a reaction to 19th Century industrialisation and the mechanical production of goods.

The Arts and Crafts exponents thought that mass produced products lacked character and vitality, and wanted to restore the craftsmanship inherent in the design of houses and objects.

Interior at Blackwell
Blackwell - a return to crafts and workmanship

One of the Lakes' best known Arts and Crafts houses is Brantwood, home of the artist and academic, John Ruskin.

Ruskin can be seen as the founding father and the inspiration for the Arts and Crafts Movement.

He wanted to restore the spirit of the workers and revive their craft skills.

The jewel in crown of the Arts and Crafts houses in the Lake District is Blackwell, overlooking Windermere.

The house takes its inspiration from nature, and its interiors are decorated with the plants and animals of the Lakes, crafted in breathtaking detail.

It was designed by Bailey Scott, one of the rising architects of the time - he was given full rein to do whatever he wanted with the house.

Sandy Kitching from Blackwell explains its history:

"We consider it one of the best Arts and Crafts houses in the country... It was a holiday home for the Lord Mayor of Manchester, Edward Holt and he used it from 1900-1915."

The craftsmanship it is exquisite with lots of organic motifs featuring plants, including the rowan berry which is part of the Holt family crest.

The plant appears in the carvings and stained glass windows.

Love of nature

The Arts and Crafts Movement wasn't just about architecture and furniture - it was also about a love of nature and landscape gardening.

house
A love of nature - an Art and Crafts passion

A great example of garden design is the Graythwaite estate which has been in the Sands family for 600 years.

In 1896 the then MP for Bootle, Colonel Thomas Sands, commissioned Thomas Mawson, a local landscape gardener, to design him a labour saving garden.

He brought in his friend the architect Dan Gibson to design the house - some of the features can still be seen today including the oak pillars.

Today Graythwaite stands as a reminder of the achievements of the Art and Crafts Movement in the Lake District.

Visit the Graythwaite Gardens photo gallery

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