ARCHIVE: When the Chips Are Down; A Roll of the Dice, a Turn of the Card, a Disappointed Groan and an Empty Wallet. Chief Feature Writer Paul Groves Looks at the New Generation of Casinos and Feels a Little Short-Changed
Byline: Paul Groves
inside another British casino and to my amazement nothing much has really changed, despite this socalled 'revolution' in gaming.
Certainly everything is brighter and newer. But at the end of the night, I'm still left with the words 'glorified amusement arcade' swimming around my head.
The rise of online betting and gaming has certainly prompted a resurgence in interest in the dubious art of gambling. In turn, some of our biggest leisure companies have spied an opening and the likes of Stanley Leisure, Gala and Grosvenor are opening huge, barn-like casinos around the country.
The greater Midlands area is proving a particularly lucrative seam to plunder The casino is seemingly springing up everywhere, from city centres to sprawling out-of-town sites.
Birmingham has attracted the major players, but so have towns such as Northampton -an unlikely sounding gambling playground but developing into a Vegas for the Midlands.
The empire behind South Africa's vast Sun City -Kerzner International -is planning a gambling complex close to the town centre, complementing Northampton's three existing venues.
The reason for the unexpected transformation is that an estimated 57 per cent of England's population live within 100 miles of Northampton. Equally, Birmingham's vast catchment area is also proving a major draw.
The big players insist the demand is there. However, research has revealed that in the last 12 months just three per cent of British people visited a casino, while only 15 per cent have visited one at some point in their lives. Contrast that with the US, where a quarter of the population has been to a casino.
Yet, the likes of Gala, Stanley Leisure and Grosvenor are investing millions of pounds in new ventures and clearly believe they will get a quick return for their money.
Indeed, the number of casinos is set to soar, although the Government insists the size regulations mean there will not be 'a casino on every high street' as some critics have claimed.
New casinos will have to be above the 5,000 sq ft limit, therefore companies will have to make bigger profits to make the venues viable.
This has alarmed campaigners. Gamblers Anonymous claims it will see double the number of people it helps. At the moment, about 375,000 people a year turn to GA for help in fighting a problem or addiction.
I had wanted to catch a word with the Ocean's Eleven chap. But he had obviously left after losing out on the Craps table.
I made do with Pete and his mates at the Blackjack table. Pete had 'blown' pounds 40 -he had set himself a strict limit for the night -his friend Dave was waivering having lost pounds 65, but then picked up a win on the previous hand and was going for it again. Danny (true to form, apparently) was really getting into it.
He didn't want the distraction of chatting to me, but I gathered from Pete that this 24-year-old furniture salesman had gone down pounds 80 very quickly, but was now breaking even and 'on a roll'. The next hand saw him go into profit to the tune of pounds 10. Over the next 15 minutes, however, his fortunes changed again.
By the time the word 'jinx' was used and the three friends looked in my direction, he was down pounds 50 again.
I decided it was best to leave them to it for fear of being branded with the bad luck iron and headed for the roulette wheel to try and prove that Lady Luck was actually with me.
I bet on red to begin with ('red for Wales never fails' -now isn't that a scientific formula?) and immediately found myself in profit.
In fact, after half a dozen turns of the wheel I was up pounds 75.
But I made the classic mistake. I didn't walk away when the next turn saw me lose out to black eight -I had gone red six for pounds 20. So my winnings pile quickly diminished.
I broke even at the end of the night. …