Minister raises prospect of a revival for a Blackpool Super Casino

Gensler's designs for the Super Casino site in Blackpool
Gensler's designs for the Super Casino site in Blackpool
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It was seen as a disaster for the resort when the Super Casino scheme died in 2008, but now the ghost of  the project,  which could have brought 3,400 jobs to Blackpool, has come back from the dead.

In a national newspaper report, Northern Powerhouse minister Jake Berry suggested that the resort could yet see a Las Vegas-style destination casino built.

Northern Powerhouse Minister Jake Berry

Northern Powerhouse Minister Jake Berry

He said he has had initial talks with council leaders about this project and other issues and while he admitted it was at an early stage it could be “a very exciting project”.

The Rossendale and Darwen MP has had talks with Blackpool Council which is keen to get a “town deal” to help the economic regeneration of the area.

But council leaders today were surprised at the report in The Sun which claimed Mr Berry was keen on a large casino project for Blackpool.

The super casino had been plan A for the regeneration of Blackpool with a huge hotels project earmarked for the former Central Station site.

The New Labour government had initiated a bidding competition following its Gambling Act in 2005 and the favourites to get the UK’s first destination casino were Blackpool, the Millenium Dome in London and East Manchester.

In January 2007 Blackpool hearts were broken when the Casino Advisory Panel recommended that the Manchester location should be used as that part of the North West had a great regeneration need.

A campaign was launched to get the decision changed and a petition of 11,514 delivered to Number 10, but year later and the new Prime Minister Gordon Brown, finally killed off any hoes by ditching the Super Casino plans for the UK.

Last year, the council unveiled a family-oriented £300m attraction plan for the Central Station site.

Masterminded by Austrian Norbert Reichart, Blackpool Central will consist of the UK’s first flying theatre on the theme of Erich Von Daniken’s best selling book Chariots of the Gods, plus a range of 3D attractions, hotels and artisan market.

Although the project is due to be built in four phases, it takes up most of the site including the are currently occupied by the courts and police station, and fitting any potential casino there would seem unlikely.

In The Sun Jake Berry is quoted as saying: “It is early days but this would be a very exciting project that would create a world-class attraction.

“It would be a major investment in the area which would bring additional visitors to Blackpool, create new jobs for local people and pour millions of pounds worth of investment into education and skills training.”

The news came as the House of Lords Select Committee on the Social and Economic Impact of the Gambling Industry has today issued its call for evidence.

The rapid growth of online gambling in recent years has sparked fears about the effects of the betting industry is having on society.

Lord Grade of Yarmouth, the Chairman of the Select Committee, said: “We know that the effects of gambling on individuals and families can be devastating.

“This Committee seeks further to understand the issues, in an area where concrete evidence is lacking, and to explore options for improvement.

“The Committee is keen to receive evidence from a wide range of individuals, organisations and any sectors or groups in society effected.

“We encourage anyone with experience of the issues to share their views, and participate in this vital inquiry.”

It is thought that any new large casino scheme would be heavily regulated and the firm behind it would have to recycle profits into local into education and skills training via a social wealth fund.

Since the death of the Super Casino, Blackpool has focused on regeneration through promoting sectors other than tourism.

With the airport and former ICI site enterprise zones, the resort is seeking to diversify.

Coun Simon Blackburn, Leader of Blackpool Council, said: “We are focused on delivering the £300m Blackpool Central leisure scheme that we unveiled to the world a few months ago.

“We are also negotiating with the Government on a potential Town Deal for Blackpool, further empowering the town to tackle its residual housing and employment issues at a faster pace, as well as looking at increased investment in public transport infrastructure and securing long-term support for the Blackpool Airport Enterprise Zone

“If the Government feels that issuing a super casino licence may form a small part of this deal, we would be happy to talk to potential investors and operators.”

Leader of the Conservative opposition on Blackpool Council, Coun Tony Williams said he too had not heard anything concrete about a casino scheme.

He said: “It would seem it’s speculation from The Sun newspaper.

“One issue would be where would this super casino go.

“The central station site is spoken for and there really is no alternative site that would provide the ground space needed for this initiative.”