Developer hopes to beat odds for super casino in Glasgow

A major property developer is hoping to steal a march on Glasgow’s big three would-be super-casino operators by locating a new gambling and leisure complex in the centre of the city.

The firm yesterday divulged details of their rival bid for the sole UK regional casino if Glasgow wins the licence from a field of 27 cities, towns and resorts throughout the UK.

It would form part of a retail, hotel and leisure complex planned by the company for the east side of the St Enoch site, which is across the road from the existing St Enoch Centre.

Miller Developments already has detailed planning permission for such a mixed-use project, using the site of what is currently the open-air King Street car park, and a member of the development team said that this consent could extend to a casino.

„It has been on the stocks for several years, and originally it was conceived as a 20-screen cinema, but the bottom fell out of the cinema market and the casino issue raised its head at the same time,“ said Alan Bell, associate director in the group’s mixed-use team.

The project would be on a similar scale to the other bids, whose plans have been laid before the city council in detail – one at the SECC, another further along the river at the Glasgow Harbour development, and the third at Ibrox.

„The commercial leisure area would extend to 25,000 square metres, with restaurant, bars and a hotel. The building itself would be eight storeys. We are looking at a development costing GBP 130m-GBP 140m,“ said Mr Bell.

The ground floor would be taken up with retail – one anchor store and an arcade of smaller shops looking on to Stockwell Street. There will also be a multi-storey car park with 1500 spaces.

A unnamed casino operator is already interested, but Miller Developments isn’t staking everything on its bid coming up trumps. They are considering housing as an alternative proposition.

Mr Bell said: „The government started out with 10 as the suggested number of regional casinos, then it went down to one, and there is a feeling it will creep back up, so even if Glasgow didn’t win this time there would still be hope.“

Glasgow is one of three councils in Scotland seeking to secure the super-casino licence. Midlothian has pitched in with a retail park site just off the Edinburgh by-pass at Straiton, and West Dunbartonshire has ambitions for the former Esso terminal at Bowling.

In the bigger picture Blackpool is seen as a favourite to land the big one.

Mark Griffiths, professor of gambling studies at Nottingham Trent University, said: „As far as I am concerned Blackpool is the front runner.

„They have been working on this for some time – I saw detailed plans three or four years ago. But I can’t believe it is going to stay at just one regional casino.

„Tessa Jowell, the arts and culture secretary, has reserve powers to increase this to four without more ado, but I have always maintained that six or eight was about the right number for a pilot.

„They must include an infrastructure to deal with the casualties of gambling – helplines for problem gamblers, educational awareness campaigns.

„If you increase gambling opportunities you will increase problem gambling, but the right measures can minimise this.“

Three other Scottish councils are among 41 bidding for one of the eight large and eight small casinos which the Casino Advisory Panel will recommend over the coming months. They are Dumfries and Galloway (Stranraer), Falkirk (Falkirk Gateway) and Renfrewshire (Paisley).