The search is on for new Leeds casino operator

Leeds should soon be able to start the ball rolling on the search for a firm to run its biggest ever casino.

The city was among 16 places given permission last year to license a so-called ’new generation‘ gaming complex.

Now the Government has revealed it is close to finalising the regulations that will allow each one to begin choosing who should be awarded the licence for its proposed Las Vegas-style attraction.

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport says councils should theoretically be in a position to start that process during the summer.

Leeds City Council, however, today said it did not envisage kicking off its selection procedure until late this year.

The „very earliest“ that an operator’s licence could then be granted would be late 2010.

It is thought the successful bidder could also take on the job of developing the casino.

Council bosses say they have established that a number of firms are interested in the licence for the Leeds complex.

Three times the size of the current norm for a UK casino, it would boast up to 150 slot machines offering maximum jackpots of GBP 4,000.

Experts have said the scheme could bring in more than GBP 20m of private sector investment and create around 700 jobs.

The council does not have a preferred site for the casino. One location previously tipped as a frontrunner, though, is land which lies between Leeds United’s Elland Road ground and the M621.

Casino giant Stanley Leisure paid GBP 5m in 2004 for first option on the private family-owned seven-acre site.

Stanley’s option, however, reportedly expired in 2007 and the plot is due to be put on the open market shortly.

Places other than Leeds which have won government approval for new generation casinos include Scarborough, Middlesbrough and Wolverhampton.

Confirmation of their successful bids last February coincided with news that ministers had scrapped plans for an even larger ’supercasino‘ in Manchester.