Third Yarmouth casino plan revealed

STEPHEN PULLINGER Work is under way on a £2m scheme to transform part of the old Tesco site in Yarmouth into a casino complex, creating more than 70 jobs.The 17,000sq ft casino, predicted to attract up to 1,000 extra visitors a week to the town, is being developed by Palatial Leisure and will back on to its successful Palace Bingo club, in Church Plain, opened at a cost of £5m two years ago.

STEPHEN PULLINGER

Work is under way on a £2m scheme to transform part of the old Tesco site in Yarmouth into a casino complex, creating more than 70 jobs.

The 17,000sq ft casino, predicted to attract up to 1,000 extra visitors a week to the town, is being developed by Palatial Leisure and will back on to its successful Palace Bingo club, in Church Plain, opened at a cost of £5m two years ago.

The complex, scheduled to open in October, will dwarf the town's existing two operators with 20 £4,000-jackpot gaming machines, 14 gaming tables, a poker room, two bars and a five-star restaurant among its facilities.

Multi-millionaire managing director Patrick Duffy, who lives in nearby Gorleston, hopes his investment will put him in pole position to win the town's large casino licence if and when parliament gives it the go-ahead.

Until now, it had been widely thought that the site of the East Coast's only large casino - calculated to bring 1,500 new jobs and £40m in extra tourist revenue annually - would rest between prime council-owned land on the Golden Mile and an area of wasteland next to the Pleasure Beach.

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Several developers have already expressed interest in developing the Golden Mile site with hotels, restaurants and conference centres as well as the casino, and Pleasure Beach boss Albert Jones is part of a consortium hoping to deliver a multi-million pound development, including a multiplex cinema, hotel and bowling alleys, next to the theme park.

However, Mr Duffy, who started his business with the old bingo hall in Gorleston High Street, said it was to his advantage that he could upgrade his casino to the necessary dimensions with minimum effort.

“With some demolition work to join the bingo club and casino together we would have a 37,000sq ft building and there would be enough room to include a conference centre as well,” he said.

Mr Duffy, who has developed a business empire with bingo halls and bowling alleys in London and Felixstowe as well as Yarmouth, said a statement of his intent to the borough council was that he had already invested £7.5m in the town and he spent £1m a year on business supplies locally.

He said they would consider investing in a small, boutique hotel but he questioned the wisdom of building large hotels with a casino, which might offer discounted rooms to attract customers and hit existing hoteliers and guesthouse owners.

And he was equally sceptical about any scheme on the Golden Mile that would involve the demolition of the Marina Centre.

He said: “As part of our bid we will be more than happy to invest further in Yarmouth, but we want to improve leisure facilities, not demolish them.”

It was possible that they could become involved in any revamp of the Marina Centre, and they would consider other projects such as the development of a multiplex cinema - but in Yarmouth and not on an out-of-town site.

Barry Stone, the council's cabinet member for the economy, said: “Mr Duffy will have to feed his plans to the independent casino advisory panel that will look at all proposals for the large casino.

“But it is an interesting concept and would fit in with my suggestion that we should develop the strip from The Conge to the riverside into an entertainments area.”

After the house of lords' rejection of the gambling order giving the go-ahead to a super-casino in Manchester as well as 16 smaller ones, including Yarmouth's, it now seems likely the issue will be put on hold until after the local election in May with a possible further vote in both houses before the summer.