The future of Coventry’s GBP 35 million casino at the Ricoh Arena is looking less rosy after two major setbacks.
The first came when Chancellor Gordon Brown whacked up gaming tax unexpectedly which will slash profits.
The second blow was the government’s plans for bigger casinos being thrown into disarray by the House of Lords.
They threw out the bill which would lead to Manchester becoming Britain’s first pilot supercasino, able to offer unlimited jackpots on up to 1,250 slot machines.
Chris Brammer is in charge of getting the Isle of Capri’s new casino at the Ricoh Arena ready for its opening on July 6.
He is reeling from the double whammy.
He said: „We are crucially disappointed.“
Mr Brammer said when Isle of Capri first came to the UK, the government had plans for a maximum of 40 regional casinos.
He added: „Our move to Coventry was supported by many, many people – in government, in the council, certainly within government.
„We saw, before our very eyes, 40 drop to 20 drop to eight, to one [supercasino] and that one has been rejected.“
But he said: „We’ve remained absolutely loyal to our commitment to Coventry. That’s what we do.
„We’ll spend GBP 35 million to do it. We’re still building the biggest casino in the UK.„
When it opens in July, the huge complex in the Ricoh basement will include restaurants, bars, a private gaming room and a spectacular entrance with two waterfalls – one 70ft-high.
The Isle of Capri always hoped to turn it into a super-casino. Now plans for even one supercasino in Britain have been delayed.
Mr Brammer was also disappointed at Gordon Brown’s tax hikes.
He warned it would slow down the Isle of Capri’s expansion – such as building a new hotel – and would cut into its charity work and social projects.
He said: „We always knew there were going to be some changes, but to make what’s probably the most taxed casino regime in the world is really a shock.“
Mr Brown has created a new 50 per cent top bracket for gaming tax and has also hiked up the lowest bracket from 2½ per cent to 15 per cent.
Mr Brammer said it could send some small casinos to the wall.
He has now got managers and accountants trawling through the business plan for the Ricoh casino to see where they can squeeze costs.
He said: „I’ve never seen a tax go down. If a government is to encourage foreign investment, new industry and employment, that’s a very funny way of expressing it.“