|Blackpool, a seaside resort town in the northwest of England, has seen better days – visitors are down almost 50% since 1989, to 10 million. The crime rate is three times the national average, and male unemployment is up to 9% in parts of the city.|
But, thanks to the UK’s proposed liberalization of gambling laws, Blackpool could see some major regeneration. One man who wants to see that happen is Trevor Hemmings, Britain’s 55th richest person, and majority owner of entertainment company Leisure Parcs.
Hemmings is behind a $225 million plan to create a major seafront casino, hotel and convention center in Blackpool. The projected 1000-room Egyptian-themed hotel would have high-roller gambling, musical entertainment and no-limit slot machines.
Leisure Parcs has spent $120 million over the past three years buying up Blackpool's Winter Gardens convention center, its famous Tower and piers, and much of its Golden Mile shorefront property, in a bid to win approval from for the casino project from the local council -- provided the UK government goes ahead with proposed changes to the gaming laws in March, which would make such ventures legal.
A study commissioned by Leisure Parcs predicts that the casino hotel could generate 3,000 jobs and generate $120 million in additional income for the regional economy. Both the company and the city council believe the first casino will open the floodgates for more hotel operators, creating as many as five more casinos and creating a glitzy seaside gambling strip. Already Stanley Leisure has bought one of Tower casino Group’s properties in the city.
Leisure Parcs' ambitious plans are modeled on Atlantic City, New Jersey, which, like Blackpool, was a run-down town until local government decided to open up to gambling.