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EIGHT venues are in the running to become the UK's first Las Vegas-style super-casino, it was announced yesterday.

The winner may be as big or even bigger than the vast complexes which draw millions of people to Nevada.

On the shortlist are Blackpool, Cardiff, Glasgow, Wembley Stadium the Millennium Dome in London, Manchester, Sheffield and Newcastle.

One of them will eventually be named as the host to a giant gambling centre with up to 1,250 unlimited jackpot slot machines and a minimum customer area of 5,000 square metres.

The bidders hope the super-casino will bring hundreds of jobs and generate millions of pounds for their area.

Favourites are thought to be Blackpool, Glasgow, Manchester and the Dome.

The list was drawn up by the Casino Advisory Pan el from 27 applications made by councils to host a regional casino under the new Gambling Act.

A final recom mendation is A expected this year. Chairman of the panel Professor Stephen Crow said: "I know our decisions will cause disappointment to some, not least to authorities who looked to their proposal as a means of alleviating problems of deprivation, or improving social conditions and meeting the need for economic regeneration.

"But competition has been strong, and some proposals have to yield before more powerfully justified cases."

Blackpool's case includes a huge casino and conference "quarter", which the council says will create 20,000 jobs and generate pounds 2bn of investment.

Council leader Roy Fisher told the BBC: "We are confident about our case and hoped we would be shortlisted at what is a key landmark in the process.

"However, we're aware of the significant work yet to be carried out."

Manchester's super-casino would be at Sportcity, which has transformed the east of the city. It was built for the Commonwealth Games and is home to Premiership side Man City.

Council leader Richard Leese said: "We're delighted the panel has endorsed this assessment and we will continue to work hard to develop our proposals to ensure we put the best possible case forward to secure the pilot."

The independent panel also announced a shortlist of 31 proposals from 60 bidders for eight more large and eight smaller casinos.

Large venues will be allowed up to 150 machines offering jackpots of up to pounds 4,000 and the smaller casinos will have a maximum of 80 gambling devices.

Shortlisted are Bath, Bournemouth, Brighton, Canterbury, Chelmsford, Dartford, Dudley, Dumfries and Galloway, East Lindsey, Great Yarmouth, Hastings, Hull, Leeds, Leicester, Luton, Mansfield, Middlesbrough, Milton Keynes, Newham, NE Lincs, Peterborough, Restormel in Cornwall, Sefton, Scarborough, Solihull, Southampton, South Tyneside, Swansea, Thurrock, Torbay and Wolverhampton.

Solihull council, which said the omission of Birmingham NEC from the super-casino shortlist "defies belief", will continue with its application to have it licensed as a large casino.

Only one super-casino is initially being permitted under the terms of the Gambling Act. Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell struck a deal with the Tories before last year's General Election to save the Gambling Bill by scrapping plans for eight regional casinos.

Yesterday's announcement comes amid warnings that increasing numbers are getting into difficulties with gambling, particularly linked to the boom in internet casinos.

Gambling advice charity GamCare said people approaching it for counselling rose 41.3 per cent to 6,563 between 2004 and 2005. A growing number of those seeking help are women.

Mrs Jowell said she did not accept that the new casinos would necessarily spark an increase in problem gambling - but she would monitor their impact "very carefully indeed".

Asked if she would shut down casinos if they did cause problems, she told BBC Radio: "We've made that absolutely clear from the outset."

She went on: "We had to modernise and update our gambling laws, and we've done that. We will have the most protective legislation in the world."


ONE super-casino will have up to 1,250 jackpot machines with unlimited stakes and prizes.

IT will also boast unlimited numbers of poker, roulette ' and blackjack tables.

PUNTERS will not need to be members but will have to prove their identity. Under-18s are banned.

GAMBLERS seeking help from charity GamCare have risen 41 per cent to 6,5563 between 2004 and 2005.


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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:May 25, 2006
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