Posted on Wednesday 17 September 2014 by Ulster Business

Belfast casino plans look for green light from council

Northern Ireland’s first ever casino has taken a step closer after the company behind the proposed development met with Belfast City Councillors.

Rank Group, the name behind Mecca bingo, operates 35 casinos throughout the rest of the UK and wants to set up what it calls an “entertainment complex” in Belfast, complete with restaurant, bar and casino.

Current legislation in Northern Ireland rules against casinos but Rank are attempting to persuade legislators that gambling laws should be relaxed when they come up for review in the Assembly next year.

In the meantime, it has met with councillors in Belfast to push for a relaxation of the law within the city to allow a casino.

Rank representative Dan Waugh presented the company’s plans to Belfast City Council’s development committee in what he described as a “full and frank” discussion.

He said two councillors raised queries about the proposals which he hoped to address if asked back to the council again in November to pitch the idea more thoroughly, and remained positive there is a desire for a casino, both from consumers and from business.

“We want to create an environment to give people fun and enjoyment and in the process will be bringing investment and jobs,” he told Ulster Business.

The Titanic Quarter in the city has been mooted as a potential site for the complex, and a definite location will need to be tied down before the exact size and offering mix – restaurant, bar etc - in the casino can be confirmed.

However, Mr Waugh said it would likely create over 200 jobs, invest up to £20m and could be up and running within three years if given the go-ahead.

Despite the potential, Social Development Minister Nelson McCausland has previously said a change to the law to allow casinos in Northern Ireland is unlikely.

Fighting Rank’s corner is board member Sir Richard Needham, the former Minister for Trade and the man who drove the redevelopment of the Laganside Development in Belfast as well as a visionary for the Titanic Quarter.

He said Northern Ireland could become a “mini Singapore” if the law was loosened to allow casinos.

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