D-Day looms for Great Yarmouth casino
The location and shape of Great Yarmouth's large casino development will be revealed when the operator is chosen by the borough council's licensing committee on April 27.
Amid the euphoria of the resort clinching one of eight prized large casino licences five years ago came speculation that there would be a wealth of contenders vying for it.
However, early interest from a number of large companies and consortia died away during the recession and it has come down to a choice of two local contenders: Pleasure Beach boss Albert Jones and Patrick Duffy, who owns the town's existing Palace Casino.
Any ambition Yarmouth might once have had to build the first of the Monte Carlo-style gambling venues also swiftly faded away as Newham council in East London showed its determination to have it built in time for the 2012 Olympics.
By the time Yarmouth's operator is unveiled, Newham's Aspers casino –part of the huge shopping mall Westfield Stratford City – will have been running for five months. Two other venues, Hull and Solihull, have also pipped Yarmouth to naming their operator.
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Yarmouth Labour councillor Mick Castle accused the council of 'dragging its feet' in deciding the licence nearly two years later than its original programme had stated.
However, he said: 'With neither Norwich or Cambridge going for a large casino licence, Yarmouth is still well placed to be the casino capital for the east of England.'
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Charles Reynolds, cabinet member for tourism, said: 'The process has taken a long time, but I do understand that there have been a lot of i's to dot and t's to cross. We have got two well-established local businessmen competing for this; we are getting to the end and the prospects look very exciting.'
The licensing committee will consider a report from a casino advisory panel which has been scrutinising both schemes to see which offers the greatest benefit to the town.
Mr Duffy wants to extend his existing casino in Church Plain to provide a 3,000ft floor space and up to 150 �4,000 jackpot gaming machines.
Speaking to the EDP last year, he pledged to spend about �5m in the first three years as phase one of a development of The Conge.
In the longer term, and subject to economic conditions, he said he would work to deliver a scheme that might include an arena and conference centre. Other elements of his scheme include a multi-screen cinema, a quality hotel, shops and restaurants.
The planning permission for Mr Jones' scheme – called The Edge –incorporates a six-storey hotel, car parking, bowling, multiplex cinema, restaurants and bars next to the Pleasure Beach.
The prospect of a large casino has caused a mixed reaction from local business people.