The High Court refused permission on Thursday for Global Gaming Ventures (“GGV”) to judicially review the decision of Southampton City Council to allow Aspers to open a new large casino at the Royal Pier.
Aspers was the winning applicant as a result of the 2-Stage bidding process and is now free to develop the site once the required land had been reclaimed from the River Test. The casino will be a part of a huge multi-use regeneration project which will also include offices, shops, residential use, hotels and a “community park” and which is expected to create some 4,400 new jobs. As a Gambling Act 2005 casino it will be permitted to provide up to 15 Category B1 gaming machines, 130 more than the number permitted under the Gaming Act 1968.
7 competitors entered the competition at Stage 1, with 4 making it through to Stage 2: Aspers and Kymeira, who proposed a casino at Royal Pier; Grosvenor, who intended to revamp and develop its existing casino at Leisureworld; and GGV, who suggested a new casino at Watermark West Quay.
The competition was fierce and long and involved evaluation of each of the bids by independent experts and a final determination by Southampton’s Licensing Committee. GGV’s bid was the least favoured at the outcome of the process, on the grounds that the Watermark development would go ahead with or without a casino. The Aspers proposal, on the other hand, would spark the entire development of the Royal Pier, which would not go ahead otherwise.
GGV sought a judicial review on two grounds. First, that the calculation of benefit should have been mathematical, and, secondly, that the Council should have considered whether another tenant might have provided the inspiration for the Royal Pier, to replace Aspers.
Baker J found against GGV on both fronts. He considered that the Council’s Advisory Panel had a broad discretion to apply approaches other than a strict mathematical one, and that there was no evidence to suggest that the Royal Pier development would go ahead without the casino.
At present it appears that this is the end of the battle for the new large casino in Southampton, and that the Aspers proposal will go ahead. We will, however, keep you updated on any further developments in this long-running saga.