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Public hearings to begin on 'Super Casino,' with Anschutz one bidder
The Denver Business Journal
Friday, August 24, 2006


Public hearings start next week at the eight short-listed locations in England competing for a Las Vegas-style "super casino" license -- including the Millennium Dome being redeveloped by Anschutz Entertainment Group Inc. (AEG).

AEG is one of Denver billionaire Phil Anschutz's companies, and Anschutz has come under scrutiny this summer because of meetings he had with British Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott related to the dome.

The British press also recently reported that AEG already has built the shell of a 150,000-square-foot casino at the dome, even though the project hasn't yet gotten a license.

The Anschutz company has said it will scale back the dome's redevelopment "considerably," if it doesn't get the casino license, The Times of London recently reported.  That downsizing could include scrapping two hotels, a theater and an exhibition area.

The Casino Advisory Panel charged with granting the casino license by year-end will oversee the public hearings, according to British press reports.

The meetings will be held in the areas under consideration.  In addition to London, home of the Millennium Dome, those locations include Glasgow, Scotland; Cardiff, Wales; and Blackpool, Wembley, Manchester, Newcastle upon Tyne and Sheffield in England.

Speaking at the meetings is by invitation only, and there will be a limited number of places for media and the public to observe, according to The Scotsman newspaper.  No question-and-answer periods will be offered.

AEG, based in Los Angeles, is using the Millennium Dome as the core for a new, $1.1 billion entertainment complex called The O2.  The complex is to include an event venue, movie theater, hotels, restaurants and casino.

The Anschutz company's partner in the casino is Kerzner International Ltd. of the Bahamas, which would build, own and operate the casino.

The casino and its license have been the subject of controversy in recent months, as Britain's parliament and Scotland Yard launched investigations into possible conflict of interest at meetings between Anschutz and Prescott related to the dome's redevelopment.  Among those meetings was a visit by Prescott to Anschutz's Colorado ranch last year.

At issue is whether or not Prescott violated British law against accepting hospitality and gifts that might make him obliged to the giver, or appear to be obliged.

AEG admitted this week that it has already built the shell of The O2's casino, according to The Times of London.  Conservatives claim the construction work shows the government must already have assured AEG it will get the casino license.

AEG said it had to start on the casino shell early because it's too expensive to wait until December to start construction, The Times reported.  The casino should open in 18 months if Kerzner, the official applicant for the license, gets it.

The O2 is scheduled to open in July 2007. The venue already is scheduled to host Summer Olympics events in 2012 and the Artistic Gymnastics World Championships in 2009.

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