Resort hits the jackpot

STEPHEN PULLINGER Yarmouth has hit a £40m-a-year jackpot after winning the right to build one of eight large casinos across the country. The casino is set to be the centrepiece of a £50m tourist development in the town - attracting thousands of extra visitors to the resort all year round and creating up to 1,500 new jobs across the borough.

STEPHEN PULLINGER

Yarmouth has hit a £40m-a-year jackpot after winning the right to build one of eight large casinos across the country.

The casino is set to be the centrepiece of a £50m tourist development in the town - attracting thousands of extra visitors to the resort all year round and creating up to 1,500 new jobs across the borough.

Tuesday's announcement is also expected to trigger a rush of rival bids from companies eager to build the casino, which will have as many as 150 gaming machines offering jackpots up to £4,000.

But while the champagne corks popped in Yarmouth, another seaside town was left reeling by the decision of the national Casino Advisory Panel to grant Manchester rather than Blackpool a licence for a Las Vegas-style “supercasino”.

The super-casino decision also raised new questions about the future of the Millennium Dome in Greenwich, which failed in its bid to win the licence to run a gambling house of 1,250 gaming machines with unlimited jackpots.

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But an added coup for Yarmouth is that it will offer the only large casino on the east coast - Scarborough and the Skegness area receiving the go-ahead only for a small casino.

Mark Barrow, Yarmouth council's deputy chief executive, described the news from the Casino Advisory Panel as “a fabulous feeling”.

He said: “There is a huge amount of expectation not just about the casino but the wider development it will bring. This will really help to put us on the map.

“This will generate 1,000 to 1,500 jobs and with around 800 people unemployed in the borough, it will make serious inroads into that.”

Mr Barrow, who wrote the bid, said the casino would bring up to 10,000 extra visitors a week to Yarmouth, and he estimated the annual value of that to the local economy as around £40m.

Borough council leader Barry Coleman welcomed the inward investment the casino would bring, spin-off facilities likely to include a top-class hotel, bars and restaurants and modern entertainment venues.

He said: “Undoubtedly, this news will mean that we will see developers wishing to build exciting new facilities, which will have the effect of identifying Yarmouth as a year-round resort.

“I can confirm considerable interest has already been expressed in more than one site on the seafront, and we can expect this level of interest will increase in the coming weeks.”

Yarmouth MP Tony Wright, who sat on the pre-legislative Parliamentary committee that considered changes to gambling laws, said the casino would bring considerable economic benefits as part of a package including the impending outer harbour and the on-going multi-million pound regeneration of the seafront and town centre.

Richard Rockcliffe, cabinet member for economic development, Norfolk County Council, said: “This news is a real boost for Yarmouth, as well as for Norfolk, and adds further to significant regeneration taking place in the town.

“The development will also have a positive effect for local businesses, and could act as a catalyst for even greater investment in Yarmouth.”

At the start of the race, the clear front-runners to be the location for the new casino are the Pleasure Beach, which wants to transform an area of wasteland next to the theme park, and a stretch of borough-council owned seafront centred on the site of the present Marina Centre.

Following an active marketing campaign by the council, it is known at least five companies want to develop the Marina Centre site with a large leisure complex around a casino.

Albert Jones, managing director of the Pleasure Beach, has teamed up with Henry Boot development company and Britain's oldest name in gambling, the Aspinall Group, to put forward a multi-million pound proposal for his site.