Work starts on £150m casino complex at NEC, Birmingham
Work has begun on a £150m casino complex in the West Midlands.
The seven-storey Resorts World complex, being built on the site of the NEC near Birmingham, will include a hotel, restaurants, cinema and shops.
The Malaysian company Genting, sponsor of Aston Villa, is behind the development which is expected to be completed in 2015.
Genting said the scheme involved 1,750 construction jobs, while the completed complex would offer 1,100 jobs.Gambling 'risk'
Paul Thandi, chief executive of the NEC Group, said the project which covers 538,000 sq ft (163,982 sq m) would "make a significant contribution to the local economy".
He said: "We are genuinely proud to be officially starting the construction work on Resorts World Birmingham.
"Our partnership with Genting marks an important step in our wider vision to make the NEC site more of a destination and the place where people come to discover the future."
Mr Thandi said the facility aimed to help ensure the site had greater appeal.
However, some people have warned the new casino could create more gambling "addicts".
Prof Jim Orford, a professor in clinical and community psychology at the University of Birmingham, said research found new casinos lead to gambling problems among people in the surrounding area.
"The local population is at risk," he said.
"A few years later you do find that the rate of gambling problems affecting individuals and their families has gone up in the neighbourhood."
But Prof John Bryson, an expert in regional economic development at the university, said: "We have six or seven casinos already in the city. You can gamble online. You can go to your local bookies. You can buy a lottery ticket.
Prof David Bailey, from Coventry University Business School
I welcome the development at the NEC. It should help to diversity the economy further.
A lot of people pass through Birmingham International railway station and the airport for exhibitions so this is a way of making the NEC site attractive for more visitors and should create jobs locally.
In terms of the casino, as long as it is done in a socially-responsible way, it is a welcome boost for the economy. They have just developed a huge casino in Singapore to boost their tourist trade, at Marina Bay Sands.
It is good to see a project getting the go-ahead when we are looking for growth as a region and a country.
"You either say no to the casino and no to all of that or you have an economy which is open and free that is all about entertainment and choice and free decision making."
Peter Brooks, president and chief operating officer of Genting UK, said the casino would make up 10% of the development and the firm was aware of problem gambling.
He said: "We take these issues of social responsibility very seriously.
"We invest a lot of money in training our people so they're aware and can help."
The Birmingham project is one of eight large casinos which have been approved by the Casino Advisory Panel.
The National Casino Forum said it was set to be the second of these to open following the opening of Westfield casino, next to the Olympic Park in east London, in 2011.
Minister of State for Trade and Investment Lord Green: "We should care about a leisure complex.
"First of all people want them, secondly it creates jobs and thirdly it's a great statement of confidence in Britain as a place in which to invest. Genting is of course a major participant in the world leisure industry."