Will there be a ‘Mega Casino’ Next to Leicester Square? - British Herald
September 30, 2022

Will there be a ‘Mega Casino’ Next to Leicester Square?

The UK has quite a long and peculiar history with so-called ‘mega casino,’ which tracks all of the way back to the early 00s. While laying the foundations for what would become one of the most respected gambling authorities in the world, the government at the time also proposed that major cities would be able to build mega casinos, but they pulled back on those plans in late 2004.

Not much really happened for these mega casino plans in the ensuing years, predominantly because of press scrutiny, but it didn’t stop the process much further down the line. In 2011, East London’s Olympic Park commissioned and opened a casino, with another opening in Milton Keynes two years later. With the aim of these entertainment venues being to drive and appease tourism, it perhaps shouldn’t be surprising that Westminster City Council is eyeing one up for close to Leicester Square.

Known for being a major attraction in London, from its permanent fixtures to special events like the nine giant wandsthat commemorated the 20th anniversary of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone in 2021, the City Council announced plans to expand this with a high-rise casino. The plans came to light in October 2021, with these being quite some way between now and the eventual opening of the new Leicester Square attraction.

Westminster City Council pushing on with new casino

In late October, it was reported that Westminster City Council had begun the process of potentially building a new high-rise casino close to Leicester Square in London. Aiming for a £100 million build, the initial plans target Huguenot House, which has fallen into disrepair. As well as a casino, the plot would also get a hotel, a cinema, and as many as 24 homes. Naturally, planning permission is required for the council to commence construction.

Since then, Westminster City Council has revised and enacted its own new Gambling Policy. Consultations were taking place prior to the news breaking about the casino plans, from 27 September to 17 October 2021, with consultations to adopt the revised policy being fulfilled by 28 November. On 10 November, a Full Council meeting gave the green light for the new policy, which has been in place now since 31 January 2022. The newly applied revisions include new hours, spatial policies, management considerations, and permit policies, among other elements. So, a new high-rise casino would need to adhere to these updated policies.

Leicester Square

The council is certainly making moves that look to prepare the area for a new high-rise casino while also updating policies for existing venues. Its main aim, though, is to bring more life and tourism back to the West End. A new hotel, mega casino, and cinema look to be a sure-fire way to achieve this, but the plans will cut the number of homes in the area from 35 to 24. In any case, there’s a long way to go yet, with a lot of red tape to cut through before the planned start year for the new development, 2025, comes around.

While it’s certainly not a UK-version of Atlantic City or Las Vegas, London certainly has its fair share of casinos and gambling venues. The most famous of them all, The Hippodrome Casino, is just down the road from the Leicester Square underground station, and the London Poker Room is down in Chinatown. Furthermore, London is a very well-connected city, with Leicester Square being one of the early rollout locations for 5G in 2020, opening tourists and residents to the online space of entertainment.

People in Leicester Square don’t need to travel even down a few streets to get the in-house casino experience. Online, the live casino combines the in-person experience with the convenience of playing classic table games and game shows on a mobile or computer. Live Mega Roulette, Live One Blackjack, Live Teen Patti, Live Mega Wheel, Live Bac Bo, and more are always readily available for online players. As such, anyone who wants to play real money casino games can do so at the touch of a screen or click of a mouse. Still, the new venue will be banking on delivering the experience that you can only get in-house.

Of course, there’s a lot more the London and Leicester Square than casinos and gambling. While certainly not an entertainment venue, Greggs put on a big blockbuster-style opening for its new store in Leicester Square on 18 July this year. Still, it was certainly a fun way to get a food store on the map. Perhaps the most famous draw is Her Majesty’s Theatre, which opened in 1897. Anyone seeking some of the best stage productions in the world will come to Leicester Square for the famous theatre. Major events often come to the area, too, like the annual, star-studded Butterfly Ball that raises millions for charity.

Over the next few years, we’ll find out if the Westminster City Council will be able to fulfil its plans to create a new mega casino in Leicester Square.

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