The UK Gambling Commission has officially opened its new Birmingham headquarters.

The commission has the entire top floor of the Victoria Square building in the centre of the city and is one of the first government departments to move out of London. Before the Gaming Board, it occupied Berkshire House in Holborn.

The custom built 2,500sq.m installation is open plan with state-of-the-art technology and workstations for staff who will aid the Commission’s expanded role in administering gambling in the UK under the Gaming Act 2005. The Commission will employ a total of 200 people in Birmingham and a number of inspectors at different points around the country. Chairman Peter Dean told guests : “Birmingham was the clear frontrunner in our search for new headquarters. ”
      Richard Caborn, Minister for Sport and Gambling, said: “This impressive new location provides an ideal base from which to enforce the tough new rules the Gambling  Act brings in. the purpose built intelligence room they have installed will help the commission to deliver its three key objectives : to ensure that it is fair and open and to protect children and the vulnerable. ” As the Gambling commission opened its new offices, it simultaneously released its first annual report had been issued under the old Gaming Board.
      The extent of the real and underlying British casino industry was revealed. It showed that the last rush of applications to the old Gaming Board for licenses in different   parts of the country had left 79 locations still awaiting the outcome of certificate of consent applications by the new organization. If those are added to the 140 currently operating casinos, the 27 licensed but not currently operating and 32  awaiting the outcome of licensing applications, the current potential in the UK is 278. The largest casino attendance was in the north of England, with 4.2 million   visits in the year, compared with 2.8 million in London. Annual drop was up from £ 3.5bn to £ 4.2bn since 2001/2 and the number of online puoker jackpot machines up from 612 in 1998 to 1,941 last year.

Licence competition hots up in Chile

Nine of the 17 casino license up for grabs in Chile have been awarded. Spain’s Cirsa group was snubbed in the final analysis, winning none.

Chilean company Fischer won three licenses at Temuco, Valdivia and Punta Arenas, while Latin Gaming  of Panama was given Osorno, Valmar Talcaahuano; J.I. Giner has Pinto; the Austrian Chilean partnership of Polaris was given Los Angeles; Spanish company Egasa Nervion was granted Copiapo and Chile’s Enjoy won Antofagasta. The first phase of the tender process sees an investment of US $324.9m and the creation of 4,405 jobs. The new casinos will have to pay 20 per cent of gross income to local communities.
      Enjoy, a subsidiary of the Martinez Family, already operates the Pureto Veras casino in a joint venture with Fischer, and the casinos at Puchon, lquiq1ue and Vina del Mar. The Martinez company had been in a bitter and public wrangle with Spain’s Cirsa. Cirsa suggested that the authorities did not consider aspects ‘crucial for the beginning of a transparent casino industry. ’
     “In particular, we  remark that they have not considered the danger that the gambling market concentration represents as well as the experience of top operators in the casino  industry, hostelling and convention centre,” it said in a statement. Another surprise was the exclusion of the Canadian –based Thunderbird. Legal action involving the company and the authorities has delayed the awarding of casino licenses in another five regions. This is expected later in the year.

Stanley and LCI confirm merger talks

Stanley Leisure PLC and London Clubs International PLC have confirmed they are in talks that could lead to a merger

The deal would create the UK’s biggest casino operator with a market value of about £700m and around 35 per cent of the overall market. The two companies issued a joint statement confirming that the companies are discussing the possibility of a nil-premium merger, by   way of a share-for-share exchange on the basis of one new Stanley share for every six London Clubs shares.
      The statement did add however that there is ‘no certainty ’ that talks will lead to a transaction. Stanley Leisure is already the largest casino operator in Britain, with 40 provincial casinos and four in London, including Crockfords. London clubs ’ casinos include The Sportsman and Golden Nugget, and Golden Nugget, and it recently sold its Les Ambassadeurs to online gaming company Mansion.

*   Bally Technologies has appointed Gavin Isaacs as executive vice president and chief operating officer, effective from September 1. Bally chief executive  Richard  Haddrill has also extended his employment agreement with Bally to December 2008. Isaac is currently concluding his responsibilities as president of Aristocrat Technologies, the Las Vegas based subsidiary of Aristocrat Technologies Australia.
      Isaacs has been with Aristocrat since 1999, in several key management   positions, including general manager global casino marketing and business development, and managing director, Europe, before taking to the position of Americas president in March 2003. Under Isaacs, Americas went on to become the largest financial contributor to the Aristocrat group.