A SECOND gambling giant has entered the battle to run Southampton’s super casino.

Grosvenor, the UK’s biggest casino operator, has announced it is set to launch a bid to run the complex at the proposed Royal Pier development.

It will compete with Aspers, and there is likely to be further interest in running the casino over the next few months.

Southampton has one of only eight licences in the country to run a super casino, which could have up to 150 slot machines and 30 blackjack and poker tables. But there are currently only two super casinos in the UK – in Milton Keynes and London – both run by Aspers.

The Daily Echo revealed the latest design for the £450m Royal Pier proposals last year, and a planning application is set to be submitted later this year.

RPW (Southampton), a joint venture between developers Morgan Sindall Investments Ltd and financiers Lucent Group, has drawn up plans to overhaul the dilapidated site which have a super-casino at their heart.

It would also contain a luxury hotel, an enlarged Mayflower Park, a new marina which would help to home the PSP Southampton Boat Show, new homes, restaurants and bars, and could create 7,000 jobs.

The competition for the casino will begin on April 1, and Aspers has already confirmed that it will bid.

Now, in a brief statement, Grosvenor has announced it is set to join the bidding. A spokesman said: “We see this as a good opportunity and are likely to be making a bid.”

The firm owns 55 casinos in the UK, including one in West Quay Road, Southampton.

The first stage of the competition will see companies submit bids, and the council decide which applicants meet their criteria.

In a second stage, in the autumn, the bids will be analysed by experts before the council’s licensing committee makes a final decision.

Labour council leader Simon Letts said: “We expect this to be the most competitive large casino licence in the country.

“We welcome this as it will maximise community benefits.”

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