Anschutz And Glazer Gamble On Casinos

American millionaires Philip Anschutz and Malcolm Glazer could be locking horns over developing U.K. casinos, although both would need to exploit a loophole in the law to succeed.

Anschutz wants to open his gambling house on the London Dome (or O2) site, while Glazer is believed to be planning a similar venture at Manchester United’s Old Trafford soccer ground.

Before the election, Labour was forced to scale back plans for dozens of Las Vegas-style super-casinos and settle for only one after a massive revolt by the opposition parties and its own backbench MPs. To make the competition even tougher, Caesars Entertainment is also in talks to build a US$600 million casino and hotel resort on the site surrounding London’s new Wembley Stadium.

Blackpool has been strongly tipped to be the first venue for the new breed of million-pound-jackpot resorts, but the government is now set to argue that at least one other needs to be built in order to meet its “regulatory” requirement to assess the impact of a gambling revolution. According to London’s Evening Standard, Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) officials have said a proper test can only be carried out if there are two casinos – one at a seaside resort and one in a city.

That could see Anschutz Entertainment Group, Glazer and Wembley owners Quintain Estates in a three-cornered fight for the city venue. Glazer’s bid is further complicated by the fact he owns the Tampa Bay Buccaneers football team and NFL rules prohibit him from having a stake in a casino. Also, having the second casino in Manchester would put it in the same part of the country as the Blackpool venue.

Anschutz, who has set aside 10 percent of the Dome site for his project, could also face problems as the U.K. government has yet to appoint the advisory panel to decide which facilities will be built there.

Insiders say a super-casino is essential for the Dome development. AEG Europe chief exec David Campbell has been quoted as saying, “We are planning for a casino there, and until we get told that we are not having a casino there we are not making alternative plans.”

A final decision on where the first super-casino will be built will not be made before 2007. But the DCMS refused to rule out granting permission for a second major gaming complex before then.

The controversial Gambling Act means the government can increase the number of super-casinos if there is agreement from both Houses of Parliament.

A DCMS representative told the Evening Standard, “We are keeping an open mind. Will one casino give us a proper test of the impact of super-casinos in the U.K.? That is something we have to give an assessment of in the coming months.”

John Gammon