Blair's casino comment cheers Yarmouth

The mood at Yarmouth is upbeat after Tony Blair announced that the Government hoped to bring forward proposals to introduce regional casinos “very shortly”.

The mood at Yarmouth is upbeat after Tony Blair announced that the Government hoped to bring forward proposals to introduce regional casinos “very shortly”.

The comment, made during Prime Minister's questions, gave town leaders hope that the casino, seen as the biggest piece in the town's regeneration puzzle, would go ahead.

Yarmouth's jubilation in January at being the only east-coast venue to be awarded one of a new generation of large casinos was dashed after the casino bill was defeated in the Lords in March by just three votes.

But the town's leaders welcomed news that secretary of state for Culture, Media and Sport Tessa Jowell would make an announcement in the next two weeks on plans to push forward the 16 regional casinos.

Unlike the divide at parliamentary level, there is unanimity among Yarmouth politicians about the huge significance of the casino as a regeneration tool - but the Norfolk resort has until now been left in limbo while Mrs Jowell found a path through the constitutional mess.

Barry Coleman, the leader of the council, said it had been important that an announcement was made before the end of May as otherwise there had been a chance that nothing would have been done until the next session of parliament, which could have put off investors.

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“If the government are willing to reconsider the proposals that would be good news,” he said.

“A decision needs to be made one way or the other as no one will send any money until they know. We could then plough on with our consultation which is on hold at the moment,” he added.

Labour leader Trevor Wainwright said: “I am sure that the announcement will be positive. We thought all along that it would come back to the Commons and I am really pleased that it has come back so quickly.”

Yarmouth council regeneration officer Jo Butcher said: “Such an announcement would generate confidence which would produce positive outcomes for the borough.”

But she said that without knowing what the new proposals were she could not speculate on what the council next move would be.

Parliamentary approval of the venues chosen had been seen then as a mere rubber-stamping exercise, but a growing wave of sympathy for Blackpool - shunned for the single super-casino licence in favour of Manchester - led to the defeat in the Lords.

Critics said the government should have introduced separate votes for the super-casino and the 16 smaller ones, including Yarmouth's.

The stakes are high for the town, with the casino set to bring an estimated 1,500 new jobs, 10,000 extra visitors and £40m annually in extra revenue.

Mr Blair also raised the prospect yesterday that super-casinos could be built in both Blackpool and Manchester, saying: “Personally I have never seen the reason why we should have Blackpool and Manchester pitted against each other. If the investment is there and able to be done lets do both of them.”

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