Wrangle over casino licence

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A COURT battle has erupted over Scarborough’s small casino licence.

It was announced in August last year that two companies - Nikolas Shaw Ltd and Apollo Leisure - had applied for the single licence which was granted to Scarborough Council in 2007.

In December, both companies were informed they had progressed to stage two of the application process.

However Nikolas Shaw Ltd have appealed against the decision to let Apollo through.

It emerged that the council’s licensing sub-committee adjourned the licensing hearing to consider the application from Apollo and allowed them two weeks to make amendments to it.

Lawyers for Nikolas Shaw Ltd claim this breached regulations laid out in the Gambling Act 2005, and that the Apollo application should now be thrown out.

From the initial application Apollo submitted, the sub-committee said they were unclear about the number of floors in the development they were proposing.

They were also unsure from the plans of where the building would be situated in relation to its surroundings and were unable to be clear about whether the building would include emergency exits.

Scarborough Council deny the sub-committee’s actions breached casino licensing rules, and say it is in the public interest to have more than one company vying for the small casino licence in the latter stages of the application process.

If successful in obtaining the licence, Nikolas Shaw Ltd plan to extend the Opera House Casino, which they already own, while Apollo Leisure, the company which operates the Open Air Theatre, say they want to build a new mixed-use development in the North Bay which would include a casino.

A case management hearing was held at Scarborough Magistrates’ Court before District Judge David Walker, when it was decided that a full two-day civil hearing will go ahead in July to resolve the matter.

Judge Walker said at the hearing that the case would revolve around whether the council had the discretion to allow Apollo a second chance to submit an application.

“The objections appear to be procedural,” he said. “It is about whether the committee had the ability to ask Apollo to put their application right.

“This is a complex matter of significant importance for all parties.”

However the judge raised concerns that if only one group remained in the race for the licence, the people of Scarborough could lose out.

He added: “One of the main aims of the two-stage process is to ensure the application that is going to best benefit the community in Scarborough should be the one that is chosen.

“If I rule in favour of the appellant it leaves them as the only horse in the race. It would take away the overriding principle that the applicant that is chosen would be for the benefit of the community.”

Judge Walker also ordered that letters be sent to members of the public who objected to the grant of a licence so that they can have an input to the proceedings.

In 2007 the government appointed a Casino Advisory Panel, which identified Scarborough as one of eight local authority areas to host a small casino, with other towns including Luton, Swansea, Torbay and Wolverhampton.

It had been hoped that the final decision on which company would be granted the licence would be made by June, however the appeal will now delay the process.