LEEDS’S ambitions to host a new “super casino” took another knock today as another bidder withdrew its interest and also shut up shop on its existing city gambling venue.
The closure of Alea Leeds, the gaming and entertainment venue at Clarence Dock, will mean the loss of 99 jobs.
Its backers, London Clubs International (LCI) said it was suspending trading at the club from today and withdrawing from the licensing process for a bigger casino being conducted by Leeds City Council.
LCI said it had taken the decision “reluctantly” following consultation with international sponsors.
The move highlights frustrations with the pace of change within the UK gaming industry. Operators have complained that changes to regulations aimed at modernising the industry and helping it compete with online casinos had not materialised.
Roy Ramm, governance and public affairs director at London Clubs International said: “Our initial commercial concerns have been caused by the failure of successive governments to provide or seek to provide a fair regulatory and commercially viable operating environment for the terrestrial casino industry.
“We work really hard to provide safe, adult leisure and entertainment venues and real careers for the people who work for us, but government policy towards the industry does not seem to acknowledge those efforts or recognise or promote the industry as a safe and legitimate element of the leisure and tourism sector, providing jobs and investment in the UK.
“We made a significant investment into Alea when it opened in 2008 and have continued to support the business through difficult times for Clarence Dock, but during the bid process we became aware of the full extent of the additional investment sought by the Council in order to win the new licence and it has become clear to us that this additional financial burden is unsustainable.”
He added: “It is with great regret that we are also suspending trading our existing casino business in the city, but current trading conditions in the Clarence Dock development have made this outcome inevitable.”
A redundancy consultation with employees at the Alea casino has begun.
The Clarence Dock development has struggled to attract customers since it was developed as a waterside attraction alongside the Royal Armouries museum. Today’s news will be seen as a further blow to its future.
Other bidders had earlier dropped out of the bidding for the new super casino - five were originally announced but at least three subsequently withdrew. It is understood that bids from Leeds United and Global Gaming Ventures remain on the table, but that Global amended its bid in January - a move which the council said could delay the process by up to a year.
It was a 2004 bill from the then Labour government which proposed Las Vegas style casino resorts across the UK. Labour said the plans would regenerate run-down areas and provide employment for thousands of people. But there was a public outcry over the idea, with fears it would spark a rise in “problem gambling”.
In April 2005, after a number of U-turns, ministers finally agreed that just one super-casino would go ahead instead of the proposed eight, with medium-sized venues in a number of cities including Leeds. Manchester was chosen as the largest site but the venue has yet to materialise.