Kerzner International looks to UK
By paul
The deregulation of gambling in the UK is attracting some of the world’s leading gaming operators. One of them, Kerzner International, has only recently vacated the online casino market, when its Casino Atlantis online shuttered its Isle of Man operations in March 2003. Kerzner operates luxury hotel and leisure resorts, including the Casino Atlantis resort in the Bahamas.

Like Las Vegas Casino giants MGM Mirage and Harrah's Entertainment, Kerzner recently acquired its first UK casino licence. The location - Northampton – isn’t exactly exotic or glamorous. But that doesn’t detract Kerzner: 'We've spent quite a lot of time establishing relationships with real estate companies regarding possible partnerships,' said Sol Kerzner, who founded the Sun City resort in South Africa.

'Our properties don't have to be on beaches,' added Butch Kerzner. 'London is one of the few international tourism capitals and we feel there is a real opportunity there.'

However, the UK still represents small change in gambling’s grand scheme of things

'The entire gaming industry in the UK is less than the slot revenues we make at the Mohican Sun (a Kerzner casino resort in the US). However, we would welcome the opportunity to do more entertainment-style venues.'

The company has made some tentative moves in the London casino market, buying some debt in London Clubs International, which owns Les Ambassadeurs and 50 St James, among other exclusive London casinos.

'We thought it looked to be a very exciting investment so we bought $15 million of debt in London Clubs International,' said Sol Kerzner. 'We expressed interest in acquiring LCI outright but management and the company's banks were calling all the shots.'

Unlike Harrah's and MGM Mirage, Kerzner no longer has a presence in Las Vegas, having sold the Desert Inn to Steve Wynn's Wynn Resorts group.

'Our view was that Las Vegas was becoming too competitive,' said Sol Kerzner. 'We thought we could use our capital more effectively in a market like the Bahamas we know from top to bottom.'

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