The Association of U S West Retirees



Anschutz's O2 in lead for casino license
The Denver Business Journal
Tuesday, December 5, 2005

Denver billionaire Phil Anschutz's $1.1 billion The 02 project in London apparently remains the front-runner to get a license for a super-casino from the British government, according to British press reports.

The 02 includes the controversial Millennium Dome venue, built to celebrate the switch to the new millennium in 2000.

The license was scheduled to be awarded by the end of this year, but now is expected to be given in January.

A recently published, 92-page research report for the Casino Advisory Panel, which will recommend where the single super-casino should be to government ministers, suggests the London venue would be the best place for the casino from social and economic perspectives.

The report says the casino should be located away from areas frequented by children and teenagers, and The 02 is on the Greenwich Peninsula near London.

The research also stated that the casino's success would be enhanced by being part of a larger entertainment complex.  The 02, being developed by the Denver businessman's Anschutz Entertainment Group Inc. in Los Angeles, is the redevelopment of the Millennium Dome and is slated to include other entertainment-oriented components such as a movie theater, performance venue, hotel and restaurants.

AEG partner Kerzner International Ltd. of the Bahamas would build, own and operate the casino, if The 02 gets the nod for it.  The 02 is under construction, and is expected to open in July 2007.

But the Casino Advisory Panel's chairman, Stephen Crow, recently warned readers of the report not to read too much into it.   "The intention was that this background research work would assist in the scoping phase of our work," Crow said in a statement.  "It has not been relied upon in reaching our conclusions."

The Cardiff School of City and Regional Planning wrote the research report.

Other locations vying for the casino license include Glasgow, Scotland; Cardiff, Wales; and Blackpool, Wembley, Manchester, Newcastle upon Tyne and Sheffield in England.

Even with such competition, The 02 of London has been the casino front-runner for a while.

After the first round of judging by the Casino Advisory Panel this summer, The 02 came in first with 67 points.  Glasgow came in a close second with 66 points, and Blackpool was third with 65 points.  Locations were judged on things such as social impact, need for redevelopment, willingness to license, community benefits and unique characteristics.

The 02's bid for the license became embroiled in controversy this summer, amid complaints by some politicians that Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott's multiple visits with Phil Anschutz, including a stay at his Colorado ranch, may have violated conflict-of-interest laws.  Prescott and AEG executives denied any wrongdoing.  Both Scotland Yard and Prime Minister Tony Blair found no grounds to pursue the complaints past preliminary investigations.