Casino councils forced to play waiting game again

Culture Minister James Purnell’s decision to re-examine whether the 16 councils awarded the right to open new casinos actually want them has upset the bewildered councils.

Great Yarmouth is among the towns recommended for one of the eight large casinos. Councillor Graham Plant of Great Yarmouth Borough Council says: “It’s very frustrating. We have been through so much to get this far and now the Government is just prevaricating. There’s no real reason for it.”

British Casino Association spokesman Alan Boyd-Hall says casino operators, while concerned, will probably not have to shelve any expansion plans as they will have applied for licences under the previous gambling act and so will be unaffected by the government review.

Meanwhile the possibility of a U-turn by the Government on its decision to allow gambling firms to advertise on television has put the Tote in disarray.

Only last week the betting organisation decided to withdraw from its exclusive sponsorship deal with Channel 4 Racing, stating it wanted to take advantage of the deregulation of advertising.

At the time, the Tote chairman Peter Jones said: “In future, we will advertise in the commercial breaks but we will not be the sponsor.”

But earlier this week it emerged that the Government is reviewing this policy. Paul Petrie, spokesman for the Tote, says: “The board made this decision last week based on deregulation happening. Then, only a few days later, it turns out this may not be the case. It hasn’t yet had a chance to discuss what might happen now.”

The search for a replacement sponsor had already begun. There has been widespread speculation that Betfair is a likely replacement, although Betfair says no discussions have taken place.

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