Great Yarmouth could be first to hit Las Vegas jackpot

Great Yarmouth could be the first place in the country to have the huge visitor draw of a Las Vegas-style large casino, a leading contender for the licence has claimed.

Patrick Duffy, who plans to enlarge his present Palace Casino in Church Plain, is pledging to deliver the project as part of a multi-million- pound regeneration scheme which would bring 'many hundreds of jobs' and could include an arena and conference centre '30 to 40pc the size of London's O2 Arena'.

He says if he is awarded the licence he could have the casino with a 3,000sq ft floor space and up to 150 �4,000 jackpot gaming machines open as early as February next year.

While Newham in east London looked poised to be the first destination of eight nationwide to open a large casino – possibly before the end of the year – the winner of the licence has become subject of a legal challenge that may delay it.

Mr Duffy was laying his cards on the table ahead of the borough council's May 17 deadline for the submission of large casino licence applications.

Albert Jones, boss of the resort's Pleasure Beach, confirmed he would be going head-to-head with Mr Duffy and hoping to persuade the council to plump for his futuristic-looking casino and leisure development –called the Edge – which would be built next to the outer harbour.

He said he would be announcing the final details of his scheme and his partners ahead of the May 17 deadline.

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In the current economic climate, it is thought they might be the only applicants in a two-stage process that will see the licence awarded in December or January. The council's ultimate test will be determining which scheme would deliver the most benefit to the town.

Although the council has been criticised in slipping 18 months behind its original timetable for awarding the licence, Mr Duffy said the advantage of his scheme was that the casino was already built.

His plans for converting his existing casino and bingo hall – developed at a cost of about �10m over the past seven years – will be considered by the council's development control committee on Tuesday.

He said while the redevelopment scheme would eventually run to �2.5m, the large casino could be open after just knocking down a few walls to create the necessary floor area. He stressed that the successful bingo would carry on too. Over the following 10 years, he would then join up with the local authority and developers to deliver a sustainable �25m investment scheme to regenerate areas around The Conge, from Church Plain down to the station.

Mr Duffy said: 'It is important the council goes for a scheme that is deliverable. One thing the town can't afford is another disaster like the outer harbour.'

Highlighting his track record of investing �10m in Yarmouth over the past decade, he said it was important to 'listen to what the town needs' in determining the development of the overall scheme.

However, he said an important part of his vision was an arena for live events and conference centre – 30 to 40pc the size of the O2 Arena – that would make Yarmouth 'a real destination in the eastern counties'.

There was also certainly the case for a multi-screen cinema, a quality hotel of up to 70 bedrooms and shops and restaurants to complement the nearby town centre.

Mr Jones already has planning permission for his scheme which would include a hotel, car parking, bowling, multiplex cinema, restaurants and bars.

stephen.pullinger@archant.co.uk