Agreement threatens Olympia casino plans

Plans for Earls Court and Olympia's (ECO) casino redevelopment have been thrown into doubt following the Government's agreement to reduce the intended number of super casinos in Britain from eight to just one.

The agreement brokered between the culture secretary Tessa Jowell and her shadow minister, John Whittingdale, allowed the Gambling Bill to be passed before the dissolution of parliament on the understanding that the number of proposed casinos is limited to one. Recent reports, however, suggest that a loophole within the legislation may allow the Government to reinstate the figure to four or eight after the general election.

A spokesman for ECO said: "We are under contract with MGM Mirage until the end of this year but we are jointly reviewing our partnership and the options available. The possibility of one super casino in the UK makes it less likely that Olympia will be chosen."

The development for Olympia Two was announced in November 2003 when the west London venue signed a contract with US operators MGM Mirage to create the MGM Grand Olympia.

The draft Gambling Bill was first published in late 2003 with 40 super casinos reportedly planned. That had fallen to eight before this latest agreement was signed. Other venues with existing proposals for super casino redevelopments include Wembley which, with parent company Quintain Estates and Development, is working with Caesars Entertainment to create Caesars Wembley.

ECO is hosting 15 new shows during the first half of 2005, eight of which are launch events. ECO exhibition sales director Jeremy Rees said: "This is a fantastic start to 2005. Not only are we witnessing more exciting and diverse launch shows, many events, such as Medicast, formerly at Excel, are returning to us."

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