THE COURT battle over Scarborough’s small casino licence began yesterday.
Nikolas Shaw Limited, which owns the Opera House Casino in St Thomas Street, have appealed a decision by Scarborough Council to allow rival Apollo Leisure through to the second stage of the bidding process for the licence.
District Judge Richard Blake said his decision would have “enormous consequences” for Scarborough residents, as well as for local businesses and the council.
If successful in the bid for the new licence, Nikolas Shaw Limited plan to extend the Opera House Casino while Apollo Leisure have said they plan to build a new mixed-use building incorporating a casino in the North Bay.
The development would be built on the car park next to Scarborough Indoor Pool.
At the appeal hearing at Scarborough Magistrates Court, Gerald Gouriet QC, representing the Shaws, claimed that Scarborough Council had breached gambling legislation by shutting local residents out of the licensing process.
He said: “The application from Apollo attracted a substantial number of adverse representations.”
Mr Gouriet added that those who wrote letters to the council were not given the opportunity to attend a licensing hearing and make their feelings on the development know, as they should have been under the law, and the letters were not put before the licensing sub-committee.
“There seems to have been some confusion of thought. It has been imagined that officers of the council have the power to exclude representations,” Mr Gouriet said. “There is no power to reject them as irrelevant.
“A procedure which is intended to give a voice to local people has been interpreted in such a way that no single sound has been heard from any local person. Not one has been able to pass the barrier set up by the council and that is quite wrong.”
He also argued that the council had failed to comply with the statutory requirements of the Gambling Act 2005 when it allowed Apollo Leisure two weeks to make amendments to their application. “The revised plans were not made available to the public,” Mr Gouriet said. “Several things were changed. It isn’t fanciful to say they were a totally different kettle of fish.”
Philip Kovlin QC, who represented Scarborough Council, said that the council had acted properly during the process and that Nikolas Shaw Limited had brought the appeal to protect its own financial interest - not because of concerns about the rights of the public.
In stage two of the process, applicants are judged on additional benefits they can offer to the local community.
“It is a fact that this is a matter of enormous consequence to the people of Scarborough for a number of decades to come,” Mr Kovlin said.
“If you get rid of the Apollo application there would be no stage two of the process, Mr Shaw will get the licence.
“If there is more than one applicant they have to compete to provide benefits - there could be cash, regeneration or provision of services.
“This licence can be of tremendous value to local people. You have to be under no illusions. If you get rid of this application there would be no benefit for the people of Scarborough.”
Mr Kovlin added that it was not unusual to alter proposals during the application process. “They did not change the nature of the scheme,” he said. “An architect’s error is fatal according to Mr Gouriet. It wasn’t wrong for the council to permit amendments - it would have been outrageous if they failed to do so.”
The appeal will conclude today. A ruling is expected within weeks.