Belfast City Council is to start a public consultation on plans to bring the country’s first casino to the capital, ahead of discussions over licensing law changes.
A consultation document has been drafted and is to circulate 11 December to 5 March. This follows the introduction of a motion last month that aims to update laws governing gaming practices in the city.
City Councilman Jim McVeigh was the driving force behind the motion and claims that a casino development could bring in around £300m to the area. “The size is huge, both financially and physically, the jobs would be very significant.”
Not all believe much will come of the latest move. One gaming consultant suggested that political intentions are unlikely to change; all parties are against casinos both past and present.
All of which would leave Belfast caught between a rock and a hard place. The lack of a clear gambling strategy in the country could leave them with neither the prospect of fresh income nor the economic modernisation that will draw in investment and employment opportunities.
And this position is only compounded by recent policies locally on FOBTs and the negative impact they have had on normal arcade applications.
This mix has has made Northern Ireland a tricky environment in which to navigate. The high street maintains large unoccupied premises, and no rates coming in for local services and local employment to replace the shutters.
At the same time, investment is waiting to happen through responsible gaming companies. The latest consultation certainly has its work cut out.