A Scottish village has been chosen by one of the world’s largest gaming companies as the site of a proposed £350m Las Vegas-style casino resort.
Bowling in West Dunbartonshire, perched on the Firth of Clyde between Glasgow and Loch Lomond, has just three pubs, a post office, a tea-room, and not even a bookmaker.
But Harrah’s, which operates 26 casinos in the US, including Caesars and the Horseshoe, has ambitious plans to transform part of the village into a casino resort and Mecca for international high-flyers.
The proposals are the latest put forward by interested parties vying for the only government licence to run the UK‘s biggest casino.
Harrah’s plan for the former Esso oil terminal features a dock for cruise ships, helicopter landing pads, a new railway station, improved road links and a possible hovercraft service.
West Dunbartonshire Council is one of around 30 local authorities competing for the supercasino licence. Glasgow City Council has also bid for the regional casino licence.
Andrew Tottenham, Harrah’s managing director of European development, described Bowling as the best site in Scotland.
He said: „If the government’s casino advisory panel recommended more casino licences, even as few as four, then the Bowling destination resort stands a very good chance of getting one.
„The site is fantastic and one of the best in Scotland. The plan envisages around 400 four star plus hotel rooms, with spas, swimming pools, restaurants, bars and entertainment areas.
„The views are stunning. We have redrafted the proposals and won’t be looking at a retail offer as there is enough in the area with Braehead shopping centre, Loch Lomond Shores and such like.
„Unlike some resort casino proposals, this destination is not adjunct to something else. It would be a resort, which would cater for local people, but would also be pulling in people from as far away as Manchester, not to mention international travellers.“
Harrah’s vision has been backed by Scottish Enterprise Dunbartonshire. Dave Anderson, the agency’s chief executive, pointed out that Bowling was close to Glasgow airport, the Erskine Bridge, the M8, and Glasgow and Dumbarton.
However, locals are divided on the casino plan. Lynda Gillan, a 35-year-old mother of four, from Bowling, said: „I definitely don’t think there has been enough consultation on this. A lot of older people in the village are against this because they just don’t like change.
„I am not sure about the casino. I know it wouldn’t just be gambling, but I want my kids to go to university and I don’t want them getting a dead-end job in some casino.“
Raymond Phillips, 43, another local, said: „I think it could be good for the area and is a way of attracting investment.“
In a separate development, a study by PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP suggests the regional casino investment could stimulate much needed economic growth and development of high-quality leisure facilities across the UK.
Backing the findings, Robert Eynon, director of marketing for Glasgow’s SECC, said: „Not only would it attract visitors and bring economic benefit to Glasgow, it would create jobs locally and provide a fantastic leisure facility, which could be used by visitors before or after their visit to SECC.„
– There are already three major casino proposals for Glasgow; at the SECC, Glasgow Harbour and next to Ibrox Stadium.
– Blackpool is considered the favourite to land a regional or resort casino licence with Manchester, the Millennium Dome in London, and Glasgow as the other front-runners.
– The government’s casino advisory panel will shortly start sifting through the 27 applications from local authorities for the single regional casino licence.
– During this process, additional information may be sought on the proposals. The result of this will be a short-list for further examination.
– The analysis process is likely to take place from the end of August to the end of September for the regional casino licence.
– The Gambling Act recently passed by parliament will allow three new types of casinos to operate in Britain. One „regional casino“ will be permitted, along with eight large and eight small casinos.
– It is expected the regional casino will be allowed up to 1250 Category A, unlimited jackpot, gaming machines.
– The panel’s task is to recommend to the secretary of state for culture, media and sport the areas where the one regional casino and eight large and eight small casinos would be best located.