The largest casino in London is to open in Leicester Square’s historic Empire cinema building.
The former Empire Ballroom has been transformed into a GBP 16 million casino and entertainment venue with capacity for 1,700 guests.
It will open in May and offer a range of gaming rooms, two restaurants, a destination bar, ice creamery, nightclub, a dedicated poker room and VIP room.
Called Casino At The Empire, the complex will be run by London Clubs International and offer two floors, measuring 50,000 square feet.
The ground floor will house the main body of the casino with 30 gaming tables and a private poker room with its own bar accommodating up to 80 players, and state of the art electronic gaming machines.
Both restaurants will be situated on the second floor. One will be a grill room with covers for up to 65 guests. The second will be an informal noodle bar, offering pan-Asian dishes.
The second floor will also feature a members‘ lounge with dance floor. Las Vega-based firm The Paul Steelman Design Group is behind the Empire project.
The VIP room will be at the front of the building with a balcony offering a vantage point over the West End.
The Empire started out as a Music Hall in 1884. It is claimed that the first moving pictures in Britain were shown there by the Lumiere Brothers.
The cinema was originally much larger, with 4,000 seats, but was split up in 1967 into a smaller 1,490-seat theatre, with the rest of the building becoming the Empire Ballroom.
London Clubs International already owns seven casinos in the capital including Les Ambassadeurs and Fifty in St James’s Street.
A spokesman for the Casino At The Empire said: „It will be a welcome addition to the West End, which has never seen an opening on such a scale before.“
It is the first new casino to be announced since London lost out in its bid for the country’s 24-hour supercasino in a shake-up under the Gambling Act 2005.
The Millennium Dome was favourite to win the licence but in a controversial move the Casino Advisory Panel awarded it to Manchester.
The panel also agreed to approve one of 17 licences in London. Newham was recommended as a site for a large casino, which can be 1,500 square metres with 150 jackpot machines paying out prizes of up to GBP 4,000.
A scheme for a GBP 20 million casino at Earl’s Court was rejected last year after objections from residents and anti-gaming groups who were concerned over drunken behaviour and noise late at night.