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NEC has a lot riding on super-casino gamble.

Byline: By Jonathan Walker Political Editor

The National Exhibition Centre could be in serious trouble if Solihull is not chosen as the site for Britain's first regional casino, Solihull Council has claimed.

The admission was made in the formal application submitted by Solihull to the Government's Casino Advisory Panel. It provides a further insight into the reasons why Birmingham City Council, which owns the NEC, decided to back Solihull's proposal instead of bidding for a casino in Birmingham itself.

Rival plans for a casino at the proposed Birmingham City FC stadium in Saltley were rejected by the city council in March.

Instead, Birmingham has sent a formal letter backing Solihull's bid for a regional casino, which will have up to 1,250 unlimited jackpot fruit machines. A final decision on where the licence goes will be made by the panel this year.

The application warns that the NEC needs a boost to help it compete with conference centres overseas.

It warns: "The NEC is now 30 years old and faces increased competition, particularly from international venues. Many centres are investing significantly to improve the quality of their facilities and new centres are being built."

The NEC already provides more than 18,000 direct and indirect jobs in the region and adds pounds 1 billion a year to the regional economy, Solihull says.

But the region could lose around pounds 100 million a year because of falling visitor numbers if the NEC does not get the casino, it warns.

"Without this further development of the visitor offer in Solihull, the NEC is likely to be adversely affected to the significant detriment of Solihull, Birmingham, the emerging city region and the wider West Midlands region."

Solihull's formal application stresses that Birmingham is "a key supporter", and that some of the casino profits would go towards building a stadium and sports village in the city.

It notes that even if Solihull is chosen, the casino would not neces analysis sarily be built at the NEC.

But it also goes into detail about the benefits the proposed MGM casino at the NEC would bring to the region.

It says the casino would cost pounds 250 million to build, giving a boost to the construction industry, and then provide pounds 50 million of business every year for local companies. A total of 2,960 full-time jobs would be created, as well as a short-term construction jobs, boosting the local economy by another pounds 100 million.

Who should your money be on to win the Midlands' super-casino? See Monday's Post for our in-depth
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:May 13, 2006
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