The ball rolls and the battle begins...

Laura Bagshaw GREAT Yarmouth hit the jackpot this week as the government gave the green light for a large casino.But town decision-makers warn they are looking for “fresh attractions” in any development to create all-year employment.

Laura Bagshaw

GREAT Yarmouth hit the jackpot this week as the government gave the green light for a large casino.

But town decision-makers warn they are looking for “fresh attractions” in any development to create all-year employment. In other words, attractions or facilities the town does not have at present.

Council spokesmen reckon a multi-million pound development with a large casino and other attractions will provide a major “boost” for the town alongside the seafront regeneration work and the £50m outer harbour.

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A development is also tipped to change the town's fortunes for the better - boosting employment and ending its deprived stigma.

However, it would not “happen overnight” with complex criteria needing to be set in council policy.

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Graham Plant, cabinet member for tourism and regeneration, said: “This is a huge opportunity for Yarmouth. Developers see it as an opportunity to not only build a casino but also to provide a range of other amenities such as quality hotels, conference facilities and other entertainment attractions.

“We need something that will help the town and end this ever-continuing cycle of deprivation. The way to do that is to create all-year employment.”

Mr Plant said the council was already working with a number of developers and expected the level of activity to pick up sharply. He wants to see plans with “fresh attractions” the town didn't already have, alongside the casino.

The government is expected to release further details about the licence and selection process in about three months and Chris Skinner, council head of central services, doesn't expect a decision for two years.

“The law stipulates we have to undergo a two stage licensing process, and I would expect this to take up to two years or even longer if there is a lot of competit-ion. Our first task is to ensure all parties who are interested in promoting a casino have a reasonable time to develop and promote their proposals.

“After that, formal applications will firstly be judged against the technical criteria in the Gambling Act 2005. All those that meet these standards will then go through to the second stage, where the council will have to decide which particular application brings the greatest benefits to the borough.”

The criteria at this stage are currently being developed and could include the design and location of the new casino, number and type of other facilities included in the develop-ment, and the regeneration benefits to the area.

Pleasure Beach boss Albert Jones has already laid his cards on the table with a £35m leisure complex called The Edge, boasting an Aspers casino with jackpots of up to £4,000, a 10-screen cinema, 22-lane bowling alley, 180-room hotel, and a combination of restaurants and bars.

“This is not just a one-off project, it is a continuing investment in the town which has spanned four generations, starting when grandfather Albert Botton came here in the late Fifties and developed the Pleasure Beach into what we see today,” he said. “Over the last 60 years we have pumped millions of pounds into the industry and created jobs for thousands of people, full-time and seasonal.

“This is just another step in the progress of a family business which includes my father Jimmy, as company chairman, and my son Jamie who is keen to carry on that tradition.”

Mr Jones has worked for eight years on the proposals which will regenerate the rundown South Denes area. Detailed plans will be submitted to the council early next week.

Damian Aspinall, chair-man of British casino operator Aspers, said: “We want to be in Yarmouth, we have an exciting scheme, and we know the iconic development will bring about the much needed regeneration of the coast and help bring back holidaymakers.”

The owner of the new Palace Casino in Yarmouth has also drawn up plans for a £35m leisure development from Church Plain and along The Conge to North Quay. Patrick Duffy is proposing to transform the area with a 75-room hotel with five five-star suites, a conference centre, shops and a multiplex cinema and ten-pin bowling facilities.

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