Manchester to become England's Las Vegas

Manchester was the surprise choice Monday as the site for Britain's first Las Vegas-style "supercasino", beating bids from London's Millennium Dome and Blackpool.

The Casino Advisory Panel also recommended sites for eight smaller casinos. The final decision will be made by Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell.

"The panel was won over by how well the Manchester proposal in particular delivered against the full range of requirements set out in the criteria against which the judgments were made," said the advisory panel's chairman, Prof. Stephen Crow.

"The proposed development will not only attract visitors, boosting the local and regional economy, but it will provide new state-of-the-art venues for the local community to enjoy," said Sir Howard Bernstein, chief executive of Manchester City Council.

The advisory panel said that Manchester, a city of 440,000 in north west England, badly needed economic development, the AP reports.

"Although containing one of the country's fastest growing economies, Manchester is the third-most deprived local authority area in England," the report said.

"Twenty percent of Manchester residents are currently in receipt of income support, twice the national average."

Blackpool, famous for a 158-meter (518 foot) tower and a traditional favorite of British holiday makers, had been

the top tip for the supercasino.

London's Millennium Dome, on the River Thames at Greenwich, was also seen as a front runner but lost out. The dome was built for exhibitions in 2000 but attracted only half of an estimated 12 million annual visitors and closed.

Since 2001, it has staged a handful of events and was purchased by Anschutz Entertainment Group Inc., controlled by billionaire Philip Anschutz, in 2005, in the hope of converting it into one of Europe's largest gambling houses.

Under a relaxation of gambling laws in 2005, the government said it planned to award licenses to build casinos in areas with high levels of unemployment.

The new Gambling Act allows for the establishment of one supercasino, eight larger casinos, and eight smaller facilities.

Britain already has around 140 small and medium sized casinos, mainly based in major towns and cities.

The advisory panel said the Manchester conurbation, home to 2.5 million people, "represents a good place to test social impact, and the council's consultations with other local authorities and relevant bodies gave us confidence on that."

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