The Association of U S West Retirees



Is Anschutz project falling out of favor?
By Paula Moore
The Denver Business Journal
Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Odds-makers have made the city of Blackpool the favorite in the competition for Britain's first Las Vegas-style supercasino, according to British press reports.

The O2, Denver billionaire Phil Anschutz's redevelopment of the Millennium Dome in London, has long been the front-runner in the competition for a license for the casino.

The Casino Advisory Panel (CAP) will announce its recommendation for which venue should get the license on Jan. 30. The panel will make the recommendation to Britain's culture secretary, Tessa Jowell.

Paddy Power Plc, Ireland's largest bookmaker, said Friday in a statement that Blackpool became the favorite for the license after "a flood of bets were placed." Located in northwestern England on the Irish Sea, Blackpool was a top U.K. vacation spot until the 1970s.

The $1.1 billion O2 entertainment venue sits on London's Greenwich Peninsula, and is being developed by Anschutz's Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG) of Los Angeles.

AEG's gaming partner, Kerzner International Ltd. of the Bahamas, has applied for the casino license, and would own and operate the gaming establishment.  The gaming property also would include a hotel.

The casino and its license was the subject of controversy last year, as Britain's parliament and Scotland Yard launched investigations into possible conflict of interest at meetings between Anschutz and Prescott related to the Millennium Dome's redevelopment.  Among those meetings was a visit by Prescott to Anschutz's Colorado ranch last year, at which Prescott accepted gifts from Anschutz.  Both probes were dropped.

But the Sunday Times of London recently reported information has come out that government officials failed to disclose details of one of Prescott's meetings with AEG.  A private meeting between Prescott and AEG execs in 2002 was excluded from a list of meetings between the two.

Other cities chasing the casino license include Glasgow, Scotland; Cardiff, Wales;  and Wembley, Manchester and Newcastle upon Tyne. Sheffield, England, recently dropped out of the running.

The license winner likely will face opposition from British health and church leaders because of a recent report on gambling, according to the Sunday Times.  A British Medical Association report attributes a rise in gambling addiction in Britain to the increase in casinos.

Last year, The O2 was the advisory panel's No. 1 choice after preliminary judging, with 67 points out of a possible 80.  Glasgow was second with 66 points, Blackpool third with 64 points and Sheffield fourth with 62 points.

But despite early judging, the competition for the license recommendation is still a horse race, according to the panel.

"The panel is at pains to point out that not too much emphasis is put no those early rankings," Nick Crowther, deputy head of the panel secretariat, told Britain's Press Association.  "They were merely to assist them in the short-listing process."