MIDLAND: Cities unite to fight for 8 casino licences.
Birmingham and Coventry have joined forces with more than 20 local authorities in urging the Government to reconsider its decision to license only one UK super-casino.
The move came after it emerged that more than 40 applications to establish an American-style gaming outlet have been received by the Casino Advisory Panel.
The panel chairman, Professor Stephen Crow, will later this year recommend to Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell the preferred location for a single super-casino.
Birmingham City Council is deciding which one of two bids to back - either at the NEC or Birmingham City FC. Coventry City Council is lobbying hard for its chosen site, at the Ricoh Stadium, home of Coventry City FC.
All three Birmingham and Coventry options would create thousands of jobs and bring economic wealth.
A joint statement signed by Birmingham, Coventry, London boroughs and other councils urged Ms Jewell to allow up to eight super-casinos to be licensed in order to meet growing public demand for such facilities.
Although Ministers originally favoured up to eight, they were forced to compromise on one super-casino following a revolt by backbench MPs before last year's General Election.
In a reply to the councils, Sports Minister Richard Caborn said the Government was sympathetic to the points raised by the local authorities. However, he pointed out that it would be necessary for the matter to return to Parliament in order to get approval for an increase in the number of licences.
Ken Hardeman, Birmingham cabinet member for regeneration, said he believed the Government would be forced to change its mind and agree to allow up to eight super-casinos.
Coun Hardeman (Con Brandwood) said: "The Casino Advisory Panel already has more than 40 applications and I expect there will be further proposals before the cut-off date at the end of March. I am optimistic that the Government can be persuaded to look at more than one option."
Birmingham and Coventry are competing with London, Manchester, Leeds, Glasgow, Newcastle and Blackpool among others for the sole right to have a super-casino.
John McGuigan, director of city development for Coventry, said the letter signed by local authorities would place further pressure on the Government to rethink its decision.