Second bidder for Great Yarmouth casino

Within days of Pleasure Beach boss Albert Jones moving an important step closer to full planning approval for his GBP 35m casino scheme, another Yarmouth entrepreneur has restated his intention to also bid for the resort’s large casino licence – confident he holds the winning hand.

Patrick Duffy, who has already invested more than GBP 9m in his Palace Casino and Palace Bingo complex on the town’s old Tesco site, said he would be ready to submit outline plans for his own GBP 35m leisure complex, spreading from the existing casino along The Conge to North Quay, by next summer.

Having already embarked on negotiations with the council, the urban regeneration company 1st East and local landowners, he insisted: “It is mandatory that we consult and listen to everyone. This comes down to what the townspeople need and what benefits the town.”

Mr Duffy said in comparison with Mr Jones’s plans – which have been passed to the government regional office Go East for consideration after borough councillors voted their approval last week – his scheme, unveiled in February, held all the aces in terms of proximity to the town centre and impact on traffic.

The riverside location of his development, which would include a 75-bedroom hotel, conference centre, shops and leisure facilities such as a multiplex cinema and ten-pin bowling, would be easily accessible by road, rail and even bus – a far cry from Mr Jones’s scheme, The Edge, next to the outer harbour, which had the potential to cause far more traffic congestion.

And Mr Duffy said that through its closeness to the town centre, his scheme would help existing business-es. Far from competing with other local operators, he would be happy to work alongside them if they wanted to develop components of his scheme, such as the cinema.

Mr Duffy, who launched his GBP 25m business empire 12 years ago with a bingo club in Gorleston, said the third location often mooted for the large casino, the council-owned Marina Centre, had the same drawback in causing traffic congestion. “Many people believe the town needs to keep the Marina Centre and even upgrade it,” he added.

He said he would only need to knock a couple of walls down to turn his present establishment into a large casino and from the day he bought the building he had been preparing to move forward “in a staged onward march”.

Tim Howard, the council’s head of regeneration, said not withstanding the economic climate, he believed other casino schemes would come forward and it would be in the borough’s interest to have healthy competition for the large casino licence, one of only eight nationally.

He expected other operators to declare their interest after the council had completed the revision of its licensing policy, a process likely to take most of next year.