Wales politics

Casino for Ebbw Vale idea dismissed by minister

Cards and gambling chips Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Rocksteady Partners has built super casinos elsewhere

Suggestions a casino could be built on the site of the failed Circuit of Wales project have been quashed by the Welsh Government.

Plaid Cymru's Adam Price revealed to AMs that American real estate investor Rocksteady Partners is interested in the land near Ebbw Vale.

The firm, which has offices in Las Vegas, has built super casinos.

Economy Secretary Ken Skates told the Senedd ministers are "not open" to the presence of a casino there.

Plans for the £433m motor racing track collapsed in June 2017 when the Welsh Government refused to guarantee half its cost, but only after it spent £9m trying to help get the ill-fated project off the ground.

The assembly's public accounts committee (PAC) said the government made "inexplicable decisions" which left it with a £7.3m debt from money lent to the project.

Image caption It was claimed the Circuit of Wales racetrack would have created up to 6,000 jobs in a deprived part of Wales

In its response to the report, the government says there are "a number of proposals" from the private sector to use the site.

None have formally asked for support, but one unnamed "potential promoter" wants the government to lift the debt in return for a stake in a new business.

The government is waiting for the outcome of discussions between the promoter and the Cardiff Capital Region City Deal.

'Unacceptable'

During a Senedd debate on the PAC report, Plaid Cymru AM Adam Price named the promoter as Rocksteady Partners and said it was proposing "a leisure resort and includes a casino".

The company's website says it has raised "billions" and has helped deliver projects including resort hotels, skyscrapers and super casinos.

"Is the Welsh Government seriously saying that it's open to any proposal which would have it, and therefore the Welsh public, holding an equity stake in a casino in one of the poorest parts of Wales?

"I mean that is entirely unacceptable, even that could be entertained as a proposition," he said.

Image caption Ken Skates told AMs that the Rocksteady proposal was not the only one being considered

Economy Secretary Ken Skates said: "Let me put on record that we are not open whatsoever to the presence of a casino in one of the most deprived parts of the United Kingdom.

"There are a number of project promoters. As I think the member is aware many discussion have taken place, commercial, in confidence, and the Rocksteady proposal is not the only proposal that's being considered."

Well-placed sources at the city region - which is led by local councils - said there had been "expressions of interest" in the site, but stressed that any decisions would be based on a "sound business case".

In the debate, PAC chairman Nick Ramsay said it was a "shock that the cabinet rejected the project at the eleventh hour".

Mr Skates said the government "worked incredibly hard" with the circuit's developers, but "the final proposal was assessed to be very high risk" and the number of jobs promised "were at best very uncertain".

As well as offices in Las Vegas, Rocksteady also says it has bases in New York's Wall Street and Cardiff. BBC Wales got no answer when it tried to contact the company this afternoon.

Its website says it has links to the Spanish construction firm FCC, which was involved in the Circuit of Wales project.

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