England

What happened to the new wave of 'large' casinos?

  • 9 November 2015
  • From the section England
Casinos Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption Just three out of eight 'large' casinos have been built

A large Las Vegas-style casino opened near Birmingham last month, but what happened to Labour's plans to create a new generation of gambling venues across the UK?

It was billed as a massive expansion of Britain's casino industry by the Blair government, but soon hit the buffers.

Plans for the largest, a super casino in Manchester, were dropped in 2007 following a public backlash.

Licences were created for a further 16 casinos - eight large and eight small.

Of the larger casinos, only three have opened, netting the local authority areas millions of pounds in revenue and donations, a BBC investigation has found.

  • Aspers opened in Newham, east London, in December 2011 at Westfield Stratford City
  • Aspers opened a second premises in Milton Keynes in 2013, known as The Casino Mk
  • They were joined by Genting's Resorts World in Birmingham in October 2015

Work has not started on casinos in Great Yarmouth and Middlesbrough while Southampton City Council has yet to approve an operator. Hull's casino is not currently going ahead, while a casino in Leeds is under construction.

Some councils have received money from operators either voluntarily or as a condition of their licence, with Newham alone paid £4.7m since 2011. The authority has used the money to fund job creation schemes and community organisations.

Councils' casino windfalls

What large casinos are paying

  • £4,690,588 Newham Council funds job creation and good causes with casino money

  • £1 million Upfront payment from Global Gaming Ventures to Leeds City Council

  • £675,000 Milton Keynes Council gets an annual donation from The Casino MK

  • £230,000 Solihull Council is using casino cash for employment and transport projects

Sir Robin Wales, Mayor of Newham, said: "After hearing from our residents that they supported the opening of a casino, as long as it provided regeneration, jobs and community benefits, we welcomed Aspers to the borough in 2011.

"We set the bar high and used planning powers to negotiate an arrangement which would benefit the people who live in the borough."

"One of our requirements was that the casino had to have a robust responsible gaming policy."

Professor Jim Orford, professor of clinical and community psychology at the University of Birmingham - and also the founder of Gambling Watch UK - said he was concerned councils might come to rely on the funding.

"Local authorities, as we know, are under financial constraints, but that must not make them dependent on the casino enterprise," he said.

"Any financial arrangements between councils and casinos needs to be properly publicised and properly debated."

Image caption Resorts World Birmingham is the Genting Group's first project in Europe

Of the other casinos, Milton Keynes Council receives £675,000 a year and was given a £1m upfront payment from Global Gaming Venture. It will use the cash to mitigate any "potential harmful effects" of the casino.

Solihull Council has received £230,000 from the operator of the new Resorts World complex. The majority will go on a local employment scheme.

A spokeswoman for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport said: "The government granted eight small and eight large casino licences across the country, following the Gambling Act 2005.

"However, it is ultimately up to those local authorities that were awarded those licences if they decide to have a casino."

Image caption Solihull's International Casino will be open 24 hours a day

The large casinos

Great Yarmouth - The Edge leisure complex, worth £30m, will go at the southern end of the town's Golden Mile, and it is expected to create 1,000 jobs. The owners of Great Yarmouth Pleasure Beach were awarded planning permission was granted in May 2011.

Albert Jones, owner of the Pleasure Beach, said: "We have until April 2017 and we're back on track."

Hull - Apollo Resorts and Leisure Ltd was awarded permission to develop Clarence Flour Mills as a casino in 2011. The site is being developed by the same company as a Radisson Blu hotel and the city council said it was 'currently not aware of any plans to build a casino'. Neither Apollo nor Manor Property Group were available for comment.

Leeds - Global Gaming Ventures Ltd won the Leeds licence in May 2013. The casino is planned for the city's £150m Victoria Gate development. The council required an upfront payment of £1 million, and is due around £450,000 a year after opening. It is expected to open next year.

Middlesbrough - Stockton-based Jomast Developments was given approval in 2012 and intended to start work in 2013 on a £25m development at the vacant Gurney House. It is meant to create 300 jobs, but it has not yet appointed an operator.

Milton Keynes - The Casino MK, owned by Aspers, opened in September 2013. The company agreed to make a donation of £500,000 a year to the council to support new initiatives for the community and £175,000 to use "in support of vulnerable gamblers".

Newham - Aspers Casino, Westfield Stratford City, opened in December 2011 and promised 440 jobs. It has paid Newham Council £4.7m to date.

Solihull - Genting Solihull, opened October 2015. It promised 1,700 construction jobs and 1,000 full-time equivalent. It is part of the £150m Resorts World Birmingham, with bars and restaurants, 50 shops, a cinema, spa and hotel.

Southampton - Southampton City Council has not yet chosen which company will get the licence for its large casino. A decision is due early in 2016. It had been looking at three sites - Watermark WestQuay, Leisureworld in West Quay Road and the Royal Pier development.

New casinos in numbers

£10,000

Maximum jackpot on machines

  • 150 Maximum number of slot machines in a "large" casino

  • 80 Maximum number of slot machines in a "small" casino

The small casinos

Bath and North East Somerset - GGV was announced as the operator in 2012. Work at the former Saw Close Clinic and Gala Bingo Hall is expected to be finished in 2017.

Dumfries and Galloway - Stranraer was in line for a small casino at its former ferry terminal site.

East Lindsey - Applications for the small casino licence will be invited "in due course".

Luton - Four bids were received in 2012. The licence went to the existing Grosvenor G Casino last year.

Scarborough - The licence was awarded in February 2012 to Nikolas Shaw Ltd, operator of the Opera House Casino in Scarborough, but it is still operating under the terms of its original licence. A spokeswoman said it intended to convert to a small casino "as soon as the government amends the ratio of slots per gaming table".

Swansea - The city and county council never awarded the licence.

Torbay - The council has shelved the idea of a small casino entirely.

Wolverhampton - Casino 36, owner of the existing Rubicon Casino in Temple Street, was granted the licence in 2013 and made a £36,000 voluntary donation to Wolverhampton City Council for counselling programmes and community initiatives.

Related Topics

More on this story