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Great Yarmouth casino race hots up

PUBLISHED: 17:35 20 August 2010 | UPDATED: 11:57 16 September 2010

The ball will be set rolling next month in the battle for Great Yarmouth's prized large casino licence.

The EDP understands at least four operators are expected to lodge applications for the licence when the borough council formally advertises it in the industry publication Casino Review on September 20.

The ball will be set rolling next month in the battle for Great Yarmouth's prized large casino licence.

The EDP understands at least four operators are expected to lodge applications for the licence when the borough council formally advertises it in the industry publication Casino Review on September 20.

These will include the casinos in schemes put forward by two local applicants, Pleasure Beach boss Albert Jones and Patrick Duffy, who runs a national casino and bingo empire from Yarmouth's Palace Casino.

Both rivals hope to woo the council with £35m-plus leisure schemes, including such features as hotels, bowling alleys, restaurants and multiplex cinemas, which they would deliver for the town as part of their application.

Mr Jones, the only applicant so far to secure planning permission, is proposing to build his scheme, The Edge, next to the Pleasure Beach with the Aspinall Group delivering the casino.

Meanwhile, Mr Duffy is seeking to re-shape his existing Church Plain casino and build leisure facilities on land leading down to the river.

Other sites that have have been mooted for possible casino-based leisure schemes include a council-owned seafront site around the Marina Centre.

Chris Skinner, the council's head of central services, said: “The closing date for applications will be January 31 next year and by the end of March we will have dealt with stage one issues, ensuring the applicants meet basic legal requirements and pass tests such as their schemes not harming children or leading to criminal activity.”

Stage two, running for three months from April 8, would judge applicants on the benefit their schemes would bring to the borough in terms of facilities and jobs generated.

The winner of the licence would be determined in September next year, the licensing committee making the decision with the help of a report from a special committee made up of councillors and a cross-section of the community, including clergy.

Out of eight planned large casinos allowed under New Labour's changes to gambling legislation, Yarmouth's will be the third to choose an operator, behind Newham in London and Solihull in the west Midlands.

Mr Skinner said Newham, which received six applicants, had spent a lot of money to be in a position to choose its operator by the end of December.

He said: “Given the resources we have spent, getting to the stage we have got to in this time is good going. We have been able to use some of the work other councils have done and iron out wrinkles they have encountered.”

The council's cabinet member for regeneration, Graham Plant, said in the current economic climate there would be a danger of applicants trying to scale down their accompanying leisure schemes and the council would need to be vigilant in tying them to deadlines and benefits to the town.

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