Bookmakers have installed Blackpool as firm favourites to be awarded the coveted one-and-only regional casino licence ahead of its big city rivals.
But Steve Weaver, Chief Executive of Blackpool Council, is playing down the „favourites“ tag – as Blackpool will have to topple the city giants.
He says much work is needed to be done to convince the Casino Advisory Panel – the independent body now studying Blackpool’s bid alongside those from Manchester, Wembley Stadium, the Millennium Dome, Newcastle, Sheffield, Cardiff and Glasgow – before it makes its recommendation to the Government by the end of the year.
Mr Weaver said: „We believe Blackpool has the best case, but we cannot and will not be complacent.
„When you look at the shortlist we’re up against major cities with considerable influence and deep pockets.
„It’s a bit like David and Goliath – Blackpool has very big aspirations, a clear vision, drive and ability to deliver, but we must never forget that the competition has an endless appetite to match their resources.
„A resort hotel entertainment complex in Blackpool will be transformational in bringing about a world class resort for the 21st Century creating thousands of jobs and a very real improvement in the lives of our residents.
„Gazette readers have shown that they are very supportive of our casino dream and we must continue to harness the support of local residents and businesses – as well as our regional partners – to be successful in winning the race to build the one regional casino allowed by Government.“
Bookies had previously shown favour towards London’s Millennium Dome – now called O2 – and Wembley Stadium bids.
But two leading online bookmakers today quoted Blackpool as clear favourites ahead of London’s two bids and other bid cities.
Paddy Power is quoting odds of 7/4 on Blackpool, while PageBet.com are even more convinced the Fylde resort will get the nod by quoting them as even-money favourites.
The odds were released as the team behind Blackpool’s gambling dream played down fears legal challenges could delay the casino licence process.
Coventry City Council and Solihull Council, who were among the 19 towns and cities which this week failed to get through to the next round, have already said that they will appeal against the decision.
But Alan Cavil, Blackpool Council’s head of corporate policy and development, said he did not think the selection process would be unduly delayed as a result of legal threats by failed bidders.
He said: „It is quite clear that people have until June 28 to make any representations about the shortlist and that is already built into the timetable. Once that date is reached, it will effectively put an end to the shortlisting process.
„I can’t guarantee that there wouldn’t be any additions to the list. Those people who are on now, know they are on, and those who aren’t might be trying to get on. It’s not something that is giving us sleepless nights at the moment.“
A spokesman for the panel said the list represented the councils which it thinks made the strongest bids, but added: „There is now a window of opportunity for people who want to make further representations.“