UK bookmaker Betfred’s £50m plan to launch the nation’s first racino took a major step forward this January after they were granted planning permission for the opening of a casino at the Chelmsford City Racecourse.
[dropcap]C[/dropcap]helmsford racecourse confirmed on 10 January that work is expected to start this year on the track and racino, which will be launched in a new multi-million pound, five-floor grandstand building.
“Over the course of the last few years, the leading casinos across the world have been changing into multi-purpose complexes offering a full range of leisure facilities to complement their gambling options,” said Racecourse chairman Joe Scanlon.
“Here at Chelmsford City Racecourse, we will be the first to offer a fully integrated racecourse resort or leisure destination with entertainment.”
This casino will occupy one floor of around 3,000 square metres in the new building, which will also feature luxury accommodation, a conference centre, sports betting hall, bar and fitness centre.
“Casinos are part of most major cities today, I think the casino development will be a popular addition to the employment and leisure scene in the city,” said Neil Gulliver, the member of Chelmsford City Council responsible for planning and economic development.
“To keep up with the growing population of Chelmsford we must create about 700 jobs each year, I welcome any development that creates employment in the city.”
While several local authorities have objected to the new casino staying open past 11pm on weeknights and 12am at weekends, Chelmsford council’s director of sustainable communities, David Green, downplayed this concern in his report.
“Given the planning history and also the remoteness of the building from residential properties, there is no sound planning reason to limit the hours of use of the casino,” said Green.
“Casinos by their nature tend to operate late into the night, [however] the number of visitors to the site during unsociable hours is not likely to be high.”
However there is still a substantial obstacle facing the new venture since it is not in the local authority’s gift to grant a casino licence, and this hurdle will need to be overcome before the project can make it off the drawing board.