- Belfast City council is consulting the public on a possible casino development
- Resort could be valued at $399.6 million and create up to 1,000 jobs in the city
Belfast City Council will seek the opinion of local people on the prospect of a £300 million ($399.6 million) casino resort being developed in the Northern Ireland capital.
According to reports in the Belfast Telegraph, two leading international gambling operators have already approached local political and business leaders about the prospects of building a casino resort, including hotel, restaurant, water park and bar.
The announcement of the consultation comes after councillor Jim McVeigh put forward a motion in support of reforming the city’s licensing rules and encouraging the development of a casino complex.
McVeigh’s motion suggested that the investment in Belfast could be worth £150 million ($199.8 million) but in speaking to the local press, he later quoted a figure of £300 million ($400 million), with the possibility that it could create up to 1,000 jobs.
Belfast remains the only major city in the UK that is not permitted by law to host a casino. According to the Betting, Gaming, Lotteries and Amusements (Northern Ireland) Order 1985, casinos are banned, although the law is widely acknowledged to be out of date, particularly given the development of online gambling.
A casino development would also require a change to the laws on opening hours, in order for the resort to operate on a Sunday.
Many in the city would see the development of a modern casino resort as a positive contribution to Belfast’s growing reputation as an international tourist destination, but there is also likely to be considerable public concern, given the current negative publicity in the UK media about problem gambling, and the fact that last year’s Department for Communities survey showed that Northern Ireland had the UK’s biggest proportion of problem gamblers.
If the development is approved, it is unlikely to happen quickly. The consultation will officially begin on December 11, and will run until March 5, at which point, the outcome will be discussed and any final proposals referred to the Department for Communities. Ultimately, legislative changes will need Ministerial approval and parliamentary debate.
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