US firm in secret bid to open UK casinos

US gambling giant Harrah’s is embarking on a covert lobbying drive as it attempts to get the green light to run a number of casinos across the UK.

The Las Vegas-based firm wants to capitialise on the Government’s plans to build 16 new casinos and has hired Insight Public Affairs in an attempt to win over ministers. The move is revealed in the latest register compiled by the Association of Professional Political Consultants (APPC).

Insight MD John Lehal declined to comment, but the register reveals that Harrah’s is a new addition to Insight’s client list.

The register also reveals that London Clubs International, which Harrah’s acquired for USD 568m in December 2006, is a new client of Insight.

Last year, Gordon Brown tore up Blairite plans for a supercasino based in Manchester, but the Government is pressing ahead with plans to build a further 16 gambling centres. These plans were officially approved by the House of Lords on 15 May.

Eight large casinos – allowed to provide up to 150 slot machines offering jackpots of up to GBP 4,000 – will now be built in Leeds, Southampton, Great Yarmouth, Middlesbrough, Solihull, Hull, Milton Keynes and Newham.

Smaller casinos are planned for Somerset, Dumfries and Galloway, Scarborough, Wolverhampton, Swansea, Luton, Torbay and East Lindsey.

Jan Jones, senior vice president of communications and government relations at Harrah’s Entertainment, said: ‚The UK casino industry faces unprecedented issues and threats from government and regulators. As industry leaders in responsible gaming, Harrah’s Entertainment and London Clubs International are engaging in the gaming public policy debate to ensure the regulatory and policy environment is balanced for customers, the communities where gaming is located and the industry alike.

„We are delighted to have appointed Insight Public Affairs to advise us in the UK; they have an unparalleled strategic grasp of the issues and knowledge of the policy environment, and we look forward to working with the team.“