THE operator behind the UK’s first supercasino is among those eyeing the lucrative rights to bring a huge gambling complex to Southampton.
Aspers – which earlier this year opened the doors to the largest casino in the country in Stratford, London – has backed council plans for a similar one to be built at the Royal Pier in Southampton.
Councillors have approved the rules they would use to run a competition to award a licence for a super-sized casino in the city. It could land the cash-strapped council with a financial windfall, bring hundreds of jobs and millions of pounds of regeneration to the city.
Deputy council leader Jacqui Rayment said: “We have a duty to support this and see it happen and make sure it happens. This city needs to grow and develop.”
Business leaders say that with the right safeguards it will bring much needed investment but church and community leaders fear a rise in debt and other social problems.
In a letter to the council, seen by the Daily Echo, Aspers finance boss Martyn Kennedy said it was weighing up submitting a bid for the licence but wanted assurances that restrictions would not be put on the ratio of staff to customers.
Mr Kennedy said Aspers were “experts at managing staff to meet demand” citing the 25,000 weekly gamblers who enjoy its Westfield Stratford City casino in a “safe and comfortable environment”.
He said: “Any onerous ratios will significantly affect the viability of our business and the benefits to the council.”
Aspers agreed to pay Newham Council at least £1m a year from its takings.
Mr Kennedy also objected to a proposed “no tipping” rule which he said could force a casino operator to pay staff higher salaries, reducing the “ability of the casino to deliver regeneration benefits to the council”.
Addressing a possible ban on “inducements to gamble”, Mr Kennedy said Aspers did not offer free or cut-price food or drink, but did offer restaurant promotions.
Southampton is one of only eight councils in the country granted the rights to hand out a “large casino” licence.
It would allow an operator to build a casino housing up to 150 slot machines with jackpots of up to £4,000 and up to 30 tables for blackjack and poker. Regular casinos have a limit of 20 slot machines. The council has earmarked the Royal Pier as its preferred location for a casino.