GBP 400m casino plan

Harrah’s Entertainment Inc, which owns the internationally famous Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas, told The Gazette it wants to transform the resort’s rundown Central Station site into a money-spinning flagship supercasino.

If Blackpool wins the great casino race and Harrah’s is appointed as the council’s preferred developer, the GBP 400m complex could be open as early as 2011.

And the boss of Harrah’s said today: „We would do something that would be internationally significant.“

Andrew Tottenham, managing director of development Europe for Harrah’s, will arrive in Blackpool on Friday to meet the team behind the resort’s bid for the UK‘s first regional casino licence.

He said: „If you look at the areas that are in need of regeneration, the areas that would particularly benefit from a regional casino, then I think Blackpool is right there at the top of the list along with a couple of other places. We think Blackpool has a strong chance.“

Harrah’s is currently building a £400m five-star complex in Ciudad Real, in the region of Castilla La Mancha, Spain, which will include an 850-bedroom five star hotel as well as bars, restaurants and a 3,000 seater auditorium.

Mr Tottenham said the company would invest a similar sum in a four-star plus casino, hotel, convention centre, pools and spas in Blackpool.
Harrar’s is among 22 companies to express an interest in building a casino in Blackpool including international hotel giant Hilton which in 2005 revealed plans for a £600m complex dubbed the Palace of Light.

Harrah’s is also looking at proposed sites at Wembley Stadium in London, Glasgow and Newport, Wales.

Mr Tottenham will meet Blackpool Council chief executive Steve Weaver and Bill Garratt, the boss of Blackpool’s regeneration company ReBlackpool.

He will also visit the new Gaming Academy at Blackpool and The Fylde College and meet executives of Blackpool International Airport – elements he sees as key to Blackpool’s ambitions.

He added: „One of the reasons we chose the site in Spain was the fact there is an international airport 15 minutes away.“

Alan Cavill, Blackpool Council’s head of corporate planning and development, said an application by Harrah’s would be considered alongside other expected bids.

He said: „Blackpool has not seen this level of investment since the Tower, Winter Gardens or the Pleasure Beach.“

Gareth Kennedy, business development manager at Blackpool International Airport, said: „We have a very important role to play in attracting investment into Blackpool.“

Blackpool has submitted its bid to the Casino Advisory Panel which will decide before the end of the year who will get the UK‘s first – and currently only – regional casino licence.

If successful, the council will choose a developer.