Casino operator set to return to resort in converted historic pub

CASINO operators Grosvenor are staking their hopes of moving back into Scarborough on converting one of the resort's oldest pubs.

Planning approval is being recommended for the works to the ground floor of the New George Hotel in Newborough despite objections to the opening of another gambling outlet in the town – directly underneath student accommodation.

The New George, formerly the George Hotel, was run for years by Scarborough Falklands veteran Rocky Rowe, a former Royal Marine who saw action in 1982, and is also a member of the resort's rock making family.

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After Mr Rowe gave up the business, the upper floors of the pub were converted into rooms for members of Hull University's Scarborough campus on Filey Road, the old North Riding Teacher Training College.

However, the former bar and eating area on the ground floor of the listed building – originally an 18th century coaching inn, enlarged and extended in the 19th century – remained empty.

Grosvenor's operated a casino in Scarborough in the southern wing of the Grand Hotel along St Nicholas Cliff for more than 20 years.

Although the doors closed in 2006, following the opening of the much larger Opera House Casino in St Thomas Street, the licence did not die with the business.

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Scarborough Council's planning manager, Jill Low, said: "The licence having been granted under the 1968 Act could be retained after the closure of the casino in St Nicholas Cliff, thereby allowing it back into use should an alternative, suitable location be found."

Now Grosvenor's, along with the company that owns the building, are seeking consent for a betting shop-sized electronic casino which would offer electronic roulette and slot machines with a food and drink servery.

Planning agent Graham Murdoch, for the developers, said Grosvenor's had "reluctantly" ceased trading in Scarborough four years ago because of the drawbacks of the building, including a lack of disabled access.

He continued: "Since then Grosvenor have been involved in a long search to find suitable premises into which to re-locate their converted casino licence under regulations made under the Gambling Act 2005."

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Although much of the gaming would be automated he underlined that the development was not an amusement arcade. "The casino will provide food and drink," he added.

"It will also incorporate a poker/gaming area. These are all activities that would clearly not be found in an amusement centre as, for example, it is only licensed casinos that can provide poker played on a commercial basis."

Objectors said Scarborough already has the flagship Opera House Casino as well as a large number of arcades, and the noise would disturb residents.

Others feared the buzz of the casino below the student flats might draw vulnerable young people into gambling.

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But the developers argued that arcades could only provide low-stake gaming machines, not the casino versions planned by Grosvenor with much bigger payouts.

Mr Murdoch said a consultant's report which formed part of the application showed how the site could be operated to avoid an adverse impact on the student flats above and the surrounding area.

"The proposed use will provide 12 jobs, a mixture of full and part time posts. With the exception of the manager these will be created locally," he added.

Scarborough Councillors are being recommended to approve the scheme at a planning meeting on Thursday. A report says a casino is likely to cause less bother to residents than when the building was being run as a late night pub.

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