Dome leads way for role as UK's only supercasino

THE Millennium Dome is the lead contender to become the site of Britain's only super- casino despite the controversy surrounding John Prescott's relationship with its billionaire owner, it was revealed yesterday.

The Dome's position was announced without fanfare on the Casino Advisory Board's website, putting it ahead of Glasgow, in second place, and the bookies' favourite Blackpool.

But if the Greenwich site wins the bid, it is set to face legal challenges because of the Deputy Prime Minister's meetings with Philip Anschutz, the owner of the Dome and AEG, which is bidding for the contract.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Mr Prescott came under heavy criticism from the parliamentary ethics watchdog last week after it emerged that his visit to the Colorado ranch of Mr Anschutz appeared to have breached ministerial rules. The 11-month delay in registering the cowboy kit gifted to him by the businessman was also questioned.

The controversy heightened after e-mails showed that Mr Prescott's department had tried to scupper a rival application by planning officials in Southend-on-Sea in Essex.

The Casino Advisory Board's intermediary rankings marked each city's application for the location's suitability, its need for regeneration, any social impact, community benefits and the "probability of implementation".

Glasgow scored 66 points, just one point behind the Dome. Blackpool, until now considered the frontrunner, was in third place with 65 points.

West Dunbartonshire's bid came in ninth out of 27 bidders for the supercasino, with 55 points, while Midlothian was near the bottom with 32. Among the 31 shortlisted bidders for other regional large and small casinos were Dumfries and Galloway, 11th with 49 out of a possible 80 points, Falkirk with a score of 27 and Renfrewshire on 22.

Opposition MPs yesterday warned of the looming legal fight if the beleaguered Dome became the site of the country's sole supercasino.

Hugo Swire, the shadow culture secretary, said Mr Prescott's relationship with Mr Anschutz had "compromised the whole bidding process".

However, a spokeswoman for the Casino Advisory Board said the next stage of judging would start on a "level playing field", unaffected by the initial first round. Local authorities bidding for smaller casinos which did not make it on to the shortlist can also have another attempt, as the board extended the deadline to 14 August.

Glasgow's high ranking was welcomed by the city.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Steven Purcell, the leader of Glasgow city council, said: "Glasgow has made a strong economic and social case for winning the single regional casino licence and I'm pleased this has been recognised by the advisory panel.

"There is still some way to go in this process, but we're in it to win it and will continue to work to bring the thousands of jobs and regeneration this project offers to our city."

Lesley Sawers, Glasgow Chamber of Commerce's chief executive, hailed the real progress made by Glasgow in pushing the economic case for the regional casino licence.

"However, we should not be complacent, and must continue to highlight the regeneration benefits not just for Glasgow, but for west-central Scotland. A supercasino has the potential to bring substantial visitors and income to Scotland as well as create thousands of jobs," she added.