AMBITIOUS plans to transform Southampton's waterfront have received a major boost following a High Court victory by the city council.

Civic chiefs have fought off a legal challenge that could have blocked proposals to build a casino at Royal Pier as part of a massive project to redevelop the area.

Global Gaming Ventures (GGV) submitted an alternative bid to operate a casino elsewhere in the city.

The company took the council to court following its decision to award the licence to Aspers Universal Ltd, but GGV's final roll of the dice ended in failure yesterday when its challenge was thrown out.

Last night Royston Smith, Tory MP for Southampton Itchen, said the ruling paved the way for the £450 million Royal Pier project to proceed.

"The proposed casino is the financial driver to get the waterfront redeveloped. Without it the project would be a non-starter so this is absolutely the best decision for Southampton," he said.

The Royal Pier project has yet to receive planning permission.

But Mr Smith said RPW (Southampton) Ltd, the city council's development partner in the venture, was "mad keen to get on with it".

GGV wanted to open a casino as part of Southampton's new Watermark Westquay development but councillors preferred a rival bid by Aspers.

The council said a gaming joint at Royal Pier would "anchor" the huge regeneration project, which is expected to create about 4,400 new jobs.

But GGV went to the High Court and challenged the authority's rejection of its bid.

The company's lawyers stressed that work on Watermark Westquay had already started whereas the Royal Pier project had yet to gain planning permission.

However, Mr Justice Jeremy Baker dismissed GGV's complaints, saying the council had openly stated from the outset that Royal Pier was the best place for a casino.

The judge concluded that no valid criticism could be made the council's decision-making process and the points raised by GGV had "no merit".

Last night a council spokesman confirmed that the cost of the High Court case would not be borne by Southampton residents.

He said: “The High Court has dismissed the claim made against Southampton City Council by Global Gaming Ventures in respect of the award of the large casino licence to Aspers last year.

"Costs to be paid by GGV have been agreed and there is no cost to the residents of Southampton."

Richard Noble, chief operating officer of Aspers, added: "We are very proud to have delivered two operational large licence casinos in the UK and are very excited to now have the opportunity to bring a high quality Aspers casino to Southampton.”

Aspers beat competition from four other firms to be named as the operator of the casino, the last licence of its kind to be issued in the UK.

The proposed Royal Pier development will also include 50 shops and 730 homes, plus bars, restaurants, a four or five-star hotel and a 130ft Spitfire statue.