TORY council leaders have denied plans for a Las Vegas style casino in Southampton have been revived.
The prospect of a huge gambling den as part of the “world class” redevelopment of the city’s waterfront had been shelved during the recession.
Developers Morgan Sindall are now finalising a masterplan for a £450m regeneration scheme around Royal Pier, officially the council’s preferred site for one of the new generation of super sized casinos.
It is understood council officers have been preparing for the casino option to be debated by councillors as early as this summer if the elected members want to put it back on the agenda.
A competition to find a casino operator could then be launched in the autumn. It would bring hundreds of jobs and pump more than £11m into the economy.
But while council leader Royston Smith said he recognised the potential boost for the local economy, he insisted the Royal Pier masterplan did not need a casino to stack up financially.
“There is nothing on the plans for a casino. It’s just not an issue at the moment,” he said.
The last Labour Government awarded seven licences for a new breed of “large casinos” that can offer 30 tables for blackjack and poker and house up to 150 slot machines with jackpots of up to £4,000. Southampton was one of the winners.
The first opened its doors in Stratford, near the Olympic stadium, last month creating 440 jobs. The operator, Aspers, has agreed to pay Newham Council at least £1m a year from its takings.
Conservative council leaders in Southampton had promised a public vote or “meaningful consultation” in the city before any decision is made on a casino, but are wary of powerful lobbying from both the gaming industry and church groups.
Senior clergymen in Southampton warned it would lead to a rise in problem gambling, debt, alcoholism and other social ills, particularly among the poor.
A Daily Echo poll revealed a very slim majority of the public were in favour of a casino