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Don’t bet against Blues casino plan
A BAN will not be imposed on new casinos in Southend, reviving hopes one could bankroll the Blues’ £100million Fossetts Farm plan.
Chiefs at Southend Council have ruled out imposing a moratorium on any more gambling centres in the borough as they draw up fresh licensing plans for the next three years.
The move has sparked speculation Southend United could reintroduce a casino at its planned retail park at Fossetts Farm, to be built alongside a proposed 22,000-seat stadium.
The casino was a central plank of the development at its inception, more than five years ago.
But the idea appeared to have been abandoned earlier this year after Rank Group, which Blues bosses hoped would run the venue, took the last remaining casino licence to the Park Inn Palace Hotel instead.
No one from the club was available for comment.
However Shrimpers fan James Llewellyn, 28, of Westborough Road, Westcliff , said: “I hope that’s the case.
“Not necessarily because I really want a new casino, but because I think it could bring the sort of money we need to get this stadium built.”
There are three casinos in Southend – Genting in Western Esplanade (previously Mint and Maxims), Rendez-vous at the Kursaal and the new Rank venue at the Palace, which is due to open early next year.
Rank gained its licence to run a casino in the town in 2007, when applications were decided by magistrates.
Council chiefs declined to place an official limit on the number of casinos in the town when they took over responsibility later that year.
However, with Rank’s licence floating until it could find a suitable venue, chiefs implied there was effectively a maximum of three gambling venues.
Blues bosses hoped to convince Rank to take its licence to Fossetts Farm, but were forced to cut it out of their proposals in February when it became clear the firm favoured the Palace.
The club has repeatedly stated the new stadium could only be built if enough money was raised from the retail park.
The new licensing policy will govern gambling in the town until 2016.
The draft policy will be debated by the council’s cross-party economic and environmental scrutiny committee tomorrow, before being signed off by Tory chiefs at a later date.
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