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Casino veto will undermine West Midlands regeneration, agency warns

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A leading regeneration agency is to fight a controversial government decision not to site super-casinos in the West Midlands, calling it a 'huge blow' to the local economy.

Advantage West Midlands said the Casino Advisory Panel's (CAP's) decision, announced on Tuesday, leaves a 'gaping hole' across the region, which could undermine multi-million pound regeneration projects.

CAP - an agency of the DCMS - unveiled a shortlist of eight English councils licensed to build and run super casinos under the 2005 Gambling Act.

But all West Midlands contenders - including Coventry, Dudley and Solihull - were left off the list.

John Edwards, chief executive at Advantage West Midlands, said the region had lost out 'yet again' and he would be making a 'forceful' case for reversing the decision in the next two weeks.

He added: 'For all of the regional bids to be overlooked is a huge blow to the bidders and to the regional economy as a whole. The north and south of the country have made the shortlist but there is a gaping hole across the middle of the country. This cannot be right, particularly when you consider the merits of all our regional bids.

'While we welcome the three regional bids shortlisted for the large and small casinos, this in no way compensates for the fact that the CAP will not now have a true national perspective when it considers the merits of the regional casino bids.'

Edwards confirmed he is writing to all 59 regional MPs urging them to pressurise CAP into reconsidering its decision and put the West Midlands on its shortlist.

But CAP has vigorously defended its choice of councils, although it admitted the final shortlist had caused 'disappointment'.

Panel chairman, professor Stephen Crow, said: 'It is inevitable that some proposals, good enough though they may be in themselves, have to yield before more powerfully justified cases.

'I know that our decisions will cause disappointment to some, not least to authorities who had looked to their casino proposal as a means of alleviating severe problems of deprivation or even improving social conditions and meeting the need for economic regeneration.'

by Clive Walker

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