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Gambling/General : Las Vegas companies not affected by U.K. vote

By Joni Hawk

Level: Apr 10th 2007
Las Vegas gaming operators said that they expect casino-style resorts will finally be located in the United Kingdom despite a parliamentary vote against extension of gaming.

The House of Lords voted 123-120 against a plan to award Manchester the country's first and only super-casino. Also it dropped plans for 16 smaller casinos that would have been built around the United Kingdom. Most members of Parliament favored approval of the smaller casinos but the destiny of those were coupled to the controversial super casino. The country's House of Commons approved the proposal during a simultaneous vote 274-250, but the other house's vote leaves the future of expanded gaming in temporary indeterminate state.

Las Vegas Sands Corp was initially attached to the Manchester casino in 2005 when it had a development agreement with the Manchester United soccer club. The deal floor through when the club was bought by interests based in the United States. Despite this second negative response, the gaming company remains interested in entering into the British market when the opportunity becomes available.

MGM Mirage spokesman Alan Feldman said he is confident the United Kingdom will ultimately return with the "right kind of legislation" to permit large casinos. Also, Feldman mentioned he was not surprised by the vote denying Manchester the casino, adding that London probably would have been a better "market-based" choice for the regional casino and may be a city such as Manchester would be better suited for one of the smaller casinos.

Harrah's Entertainment officials refused to comment on the vote. It is the only one of the three main local gaming companies that currently holds gaming interest in England. In December, the gaming company completed its $570 million achievements of London Clubs International, which includes seven small casinos in the country.

The gaming company was shocked when United Kingdom Finance Minister Gordon Brown earlier this month introduced a plan to tax large casinos at a rate of 50 percent, exceeding the current rate of approximately 25 percent.

Parliament can consider a revised version of the plan but special considerations and amendments to the legislation may take a month or more to agree upon. Manchester, an industrial city 195 miles northwest of London, was the stun recommendation of the independent Casino Advisory Panel, whipping out Blackpool and London.
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