Gym's future a real gamble

OWNERS of a seafront gym feel they have suffered a bad throw of the dice because permission is being sought to turn their premises into a casino.But despite being dealt such a blow, the business is determined to fight for its survival – and says it will not be moving anywhere for at least two years.

By Richard Cornwell

OWNERS of a seafront gym feel they have suffered a bad throw of the dice because permission is being sought to turn their premises into a casino.

But despite being dealt such a blow, the business is determined to fight for its survival – and says it will not be moving anywhere for at least two years.

"Our biggest problem at the moment is that some people have got the wrong end of the stick and think the business is closing down," said Sylvia Lowe, whose elder daughter Alison Swann owns and runs the fitness centre.

"The business is open and has no intention of closing. These things never happen tomorrow when they are announced.

"We have got at least two years here on our lease before anything happens."

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The Regal Fitness Suite is on the first-floor of the Regal complex in Sea Road – occupying the very area property owner Stan Threadwell wants to put a casino.

His company SMT Amusements Ltd has applied to Suffolk Coastal council to change the first floor to a casino for black jack, roulette and other gambling games and a bar, extend the slot gaming floor and ground floor restaurant. There would be a betting shop instead of a fish bar.

He is preparing the ground for when the government approves its plans for the reform and relaxation of the gambling laws, which is expected to lead to the opening of many casinos.

Mrs Lowe said the news of the casino plan had already caused some customers to panic and a few had been in demanding the return of their subscription fees.

"Alison has been working hard to build up the membership and many of the 750 members of the gym have paid a year or two years in advance," she said.

"There is no danger to these arrangements because we will not be closing down and we are here for people to use.

"We will keep the members informed as times goes on and we know more about what is likely to happen or not happen.

"Our big worry at the moment though is that casual users may be deterred or that prospective members may be worried for no reason."

Town councillors have recommended approval of the casino project in principle, but refused the betting shop because it was felt inappropriate for a tourism area aimed at families.

The council said the casino should not open later than 1am Monday to Thursday and 2am Friday to Sunday.

The plans will be decided by Suffolk Coastal within the next eight weeks.

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