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Manchester Picked as Site for Britain's First Vegas Style Casino;
Kerzner International  on Inside Track to Be a Partner

By Tamsin Brown, Daily Mail, LondonMcClatchy-Tribune Business News

Jan. 31, 2007 - The shock recommendation of Manchester as the home of Britain's first super casino caught gambling groups betting on Blackpool or Greenwich on the back foot.

The biggest loser was probably U.S. entertainment mogul Philip Anschutz, whose Anschutz Entertainment Group had already started building work on the proposed casino site at London's Millennium Dome, now called the O2.

Bookmaker Ladbrokes, meanwhile, had been betting on Blackpool and several U.S. operators had been courting Glasgow, which was seen as the outsider in the race.

But no more than Manchester, which had also been ranked with the no-hopers but will now host Britain's first ever Las-Vegas style casino.

Its dimensions are staggering -- it will be at least the size of a football pitch and hopes to install 1,250 flashing onearmed bandits.

Compare that with the average city centre venue with just 20 fruit machines.

Bahamas-based Kerzner International proved to be the canniest gambler, taking a punt on several cities, including leading a consortium that became Manchester's preferred partner.

Existing agreements are expected to be ripped up to allow a competitive, open bidding process for the right to run the casino, although South Africa's Kerzner will clearly have a head start.

Those who called the Casino Advisory Panel's decision wrong are likely to submit bids for the Manchester site and perhaps some of the other 16 casinos to be built under the new Gambling Act.

Ladbrokes (up 5p at 434 1/4p) is considering whether it should go for the Manchester license.

It is expected to bid for a number of the other new licences.

Rank (up 4 1/4p at 231p), owner of the Grosvenor casino chain, is also keen to get involved.

Gala Coral is expected to put in bids for some of the lesser licences.

Chief executive Neil Goulden has already warned that he would mount a legal challenge to the Casino Advisory Panel's decision if three or four of the new generation casinos were allowed to open in towns where Gala already had casinos.

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To see more of the Daily Mail and the Financial Mail on Sunday, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.thisismoney.com.

Copyright (c) 2007, Daily Mail, London

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