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UK – Preston councillors approve casino bid

By - 3 April 2014

Preston’s bid to host a casino is a step nearer following approval from the council’s planning committee for plans to transform the former Fives building in Guildhall Street.

A group of Preston-based businessmen are working with the National Casino Industry Forum (NCiF) as they bid to win a landmark casino licence for the Lancashire town. Led by Edgar Wallace, owner of the former Fives bar building, the group is hoping to make use of a ruling making licences ‘portable’ which would allow Preston to use a dormant licence granted to a town or city that has not been developed.

Councillors were keen to make the distinction between a ‘cosmopolitan’ casino and plans by Coral to open a betting shop in Market Place.

Councillor Brian Rollo, Chair of the committee, said it was a ‘different beast entirely.’

“This is a gambling establishment which probably would be beneficial to Preston city centre,” he said. “It would bring a different clientele. Casinos aren’t allowed to sell alcohol; they can have an associated business that can sell alcohol but it has to be separate. The B2 machines can go in bookmakers and casinos – this place will be entitled to put B2 gambling machines in. But most casinos in the country don’t like B2 machines.”

Councillor Carl Crompton added: “It is a different atmosphere. People go out for the casino experience. I’m fully behind it and I think it will be a good thing for Preston and it will create a lot of top end jobs.”

Although spearheading the campaign, the Fives proposal is now likely to face bids from rival companies as the licence procedure will be opened up to a casino tender.

Councillor Drew Gale said: “I am quite supportive of the prospect of a casino. I think it would contribute greatly to the night time economy and bring a significant number of jobs. I am keen for the city to move away from the night time boozing culture. I think it needs something a bit more cosmopolitan.”

The aim is to bring a leading casino operator to the town early next year with a gaming floor opening in the two upper levels of the former Preston Conservative Club building.

Councillor John Swindells, Deputy Leader of Preston Council, said: “It’s my understanding that if the licences were made portable, the local authority would have to agree to have one. There is no position on that at the moment, because it’s not been on our agenda since about 2006, when the Blair government was awarding licences, and we decided not to go for one.”

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