Don't fear casino, Felixstowe urged

CRITICS of moves to create a new £3.2 million entertainment complex with a casino in Felixstowe town centre have been assured their fears are unfounded.

By Richard Cornwell

CRITICS of moves to create a new £3.2 million entertainment complex with a casino in Felixstowe town centre have been assured their fears are unfounded.

Objectors have deluged planners with letters claiming the project would bring more drunkenness, vandalism, late-night noise, parking problems and entice youngsters into gambling.

But Patrick Duffy – managing director of the company behind the project – firmly believes the opposite will actually happen to what residents and community leaders allege, and his scheme will bring big benefits to the resort.

He has spoken out to reassure people that no children – no-one under 18 – will be allowed into the "mini resort" complex, except its cinema, and that its clientele will be the very opposite to what many people seem to envisage.

He has been deeply hurt by some of the letters written, and disappointed that the writers have written out of ignorance and misunderstanding, without looking at the plans or speaking to him to seek answers.

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"I can accept objections and I can accept constructive criticism, but I would want that to be based on evidence and facts rather than hearsay and anecdotal evidence," said Mr Duffy, MD of Palatial Leisure.

"We do not entice people into our bingo and we would never allow children in. The last people we want to attract are youngsters – they are just not in our plans.

"People come because they want to come and we make it as an enjoyable experience as possible for them."

He cannot imagine his customers causing "chaos", as one objector has suggested, or going on a drunken rampage, vandalising the town.

People who will use the casino will not be the same as those who use the resort's nightclubs and pubs – they will not finish their evening on the seafront and drunkenly amble to the town centre for a flutter in the early hours.

Those who will use the casino and bingo are quiet people, who value their privacy, and do not drink much at all.

The complex will be "members only" and the company has strict rules on standards of behaviour and which forbid bad language. No-one who was drunk would be allowed in.

Mr Duffy believes his plans to transform the cinema and bingo hall in Crescent Road into a single-screen cinema, conference centre, bingo hall and casino, restaurant, gym and 57-bed hotel, will make the town centre safer.

"It will stop it being a barren wasteland at night and make it user-friendly. It will bring activity," he said.

The hotel would not survive if it was in an area plagued with problems or part of a development causing them. CCTV would be used to protect the area and hopefully the added movement and life it would bring would deter vandals.

The company, which owns the building, is also looking at a similar development in four other towns.

It says it needs to be ready for the outcome of the government report into gambling so that it can expand its bingo operation to incorporate a casino.

It is a caring company with a regular clientele, a large number of them elderly. It has also worked hard to keep Felixstowe's cinema running, as more than 600 children a week use it in school holidays, and subsidised it to ensure it does.


panel on gambling

n Gambling for money goes back to ancient times, with dice having been found at many archaeological sites

n Britain has laws controlling gambling dating back to the 1600s

n Today gambling – betting on horses, greyhounds, and others sports, bingo, amusement arcades, lottery and casinos – is a multi-billion pound industry

n Casinos at present have to be licensed and must operate as members' only clubs

n The government has completed a review of gambling in the UK and is set to relax current controls on casinos to allow more to open with an increased number of activities and live entertainment

n Many people each week now take part in on-line gambling – able to bet via their computers and their credit card from home

n Las Vegas is the world capital of gambling and its famous Strip has been developed with huge hotels, gaming rooms and casinos since it was legalised in 1931

n In the USA, more than 400 billion dollars are spent on gambling each year

Source: Internet