Prescott, the cowboy and the casino

Something is pleasingly self-referential about betting on gambling itself. For some time, one of the bookies offered a market on whether it would win a licence to operate in Finland – they can’t, presumably, have taken much money on it, but the concept was a neat hedge against the profits at stake in winning the licence. And now through Betfair (look under Politics >> UK >> Super Casino Licence) you can bet on the location of the single UK “supercasino”, enabled by recent changes in the gambling laws.

The markets have this as essentially a two-horse race: Blackpool is the 0.67/1 favourite with the Millennium Dome in Greenwich at 1.02/1. The Casino Advisory Panel, whose preliminary report favoured the Dome, is now reconvening to hear each of the seven candidates put their cases.

The Dome bid could have done without much of the publicity it’s had recently. The Dome’s owner, Philip Anschutz, has had some pretty-well documented contacts with John Prescott. And local religious groups weren’t too pleased when it was made out that they’d be happy to see the casino.

We probably should believe the panel’s chairman, Stephen Crow, who was idiosyncratic but clear in denying that the Dome was a foregone conclusion: “Is Greenwich a done deal for the regional casino? The answer to that question is no. I do not know how I can spell it out. It is N-O: we have made no such decision.”

But has enough changed to justify the panel’s provisional recommendation not being favourite for the final license? Prescott himself has survived for now, so it’s hard to see the Dome as punctured by that or anything else.

Philip Grant
Guest editor

Mike Smithson returns on 10th September.

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