Sheffield has been shortlisted by the Government as one of eight cities in the running for the chance of hosting the country’s first Las-Vegas style casino.
Three companies have already put themselves forward to take on the plans if Sheffield win.
The matter is to be debated at a public meeting tonight organised by the Green Party which claims Sheffield Council has deliberately stifled public debate about it.
Plans for a casino have sparked much controversy, with a number of people claiming it will be bad for the city as it will lead to a rise in gambling addiction and even homelessness.
But yesterday one of the potential casino operators – South African-based Sun International – claimed the majority of people in Sheffield were in favour.
They say independently conducted research revealed wide-spread support for a regional casino.
Research on behalf of the company, they say, shows that a clear majority of people in Sheffield feel that revenue from regional casinos will have a positive effect on the city and the region’s economy and will lead to many new jobs.
The survey also showed that of those questioned, 66 per cent were positive or neutral towards gambling, with only 33.4 per cent against it.
A total of 500 interviews were conducted in four separate areas of Sheffield – the city centre, Crystal Peaks, Meadowhall and Hillsborough.
Alcohol and drug abuse, anti-social behaviour, crime and health were all seen as the most serious social problems facing communities.
Sun International and Sheffield City Trust have plans to build a GBP 200m regional casino in the Lower Don Valley along with a restaurant and entertainment complex, a 128-bed hotel, 1,250 parking spaces and a landscaped park area, which could create as many as 1,500 jobs.
Neil Murphy, UK Development Director of Sun International, said he was delighted with the survey findings.
„This latest research confirms the messages that have been coming through loud and clear – there is a real conviction that with the right scheme and the right operator, a regional casino will bring substantial and sustainable regeneration to the people of Sheffield and the region that surrounds it.“.
But Blackpool councillor Steven Bate, organiser of the national Campaign Against Super-Casino Expansion (CASE), who is speaking at tonight’s meeting in Sheffield, said Sun International’s results were „hardly an overwhelming endorsement of super-casino development“.
He said: „While many people are neutral, a National Opinion Poll survey indicated that 95 per cent saw no need or wish to see casino gambling opportunities expanded, and many especially not near to where they live.“
A decision is expected by the end of the year on which area will be selected as a regional casino pilot.
Tonight’s meeting will be held at 7pm at Victoria Hall, Norfolk Street, Sheffield.