Arena plans to bid for casino licence

Arena Leisure is putting together a consortium to bid for one of the 16 new casino licences being made available for the government and said it would begin building it early in 2009 if its bid was successful.

The operator of seven racecourses and a quarter of UK horseracing fixtures wants to attach a casino to its Wolverhampton racecourse, which last year staged more than a third of Arena’s fixtures, and will be a leading contender for the city’s casino licence.

Mark Elliott, chief executive, said: “We will shortly confirm a casino operator partner in time to compete for the licence.” The development is expected to cost about GBP 25m (USD 50m).

The summer floods played havoc with fixtures at Worcester and Southwell, but the reopening of Doncaster helped revenues increase 28 per cent to GBP 57.9m, while pre-tax profits remained unchanged at GBP 5.8m.

Arena negotiated a GBP 6.6m insurance settlement out of the Southwell closure.

“Bearing in mind the circumstances in the summer, these are an excellent set of results,” Mr Elliott said. “The reopening of Doncaster will help the group’s profit growth in the coming years.”

Arena won planning permission for hotels at Doncaster, Wolverhampton and Lingfield Park, and created its own catering business. It will also manage racing operations at the new track at Great Leighs in Essex, scheduled to open next month.

Total attendances rose 12.4 per cent to 573,000, while the higher-spending private hospitality customers grew 30 per cent to 62,700. The shares fell 1,75p to 52,25p.