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Blair Donor Set to Hit the Jackpot

27 May 2002

LONDON -- As reported by This is London: ``You might call it coincidence. A gambler would call it luck. But New Labour has found another super-rich benefactor - a man who plans to make a new fortune by exploiting the Government's decision to shake up gambling laws.

``Multi-millionaire Duncan Bannatyne will this week unveil plans for a new venture, Bannatyne's Casinos. It specifically aims to move into the new market for 'people's casinos', following the White Paper proposing the biggest relaxation of the laws covering the gaming industry in recent memory.

``And today, Financial Mail can reveal that Bannatyne, 53, has already given money to Labour - and has just pledged to make even bigger contributions every year until the party next goes to the polls.

``Last August, before the Government launched its gaming White Paper - dubbed a 'gambling freeforall' - he gave £6,000 to New Labour, the first time he had given to a political party. Only two weeks ago, he gave again to Labour - this time £10,000. He told Financial Mail this weekend he would donate £10,000 to the party 'each year until the next General Election'.

``Bannatyne, who 21 years ago gave up the life of a beach bum to become an entrepreneur, admits he could not have launched his new business without the deregulation of the industry. But he said: 'I never asked for anything from Labour. I believed in what they were doing.'

``And though he has a photograph of himself with Tony Blair at his offices in Darlington, Co. Durham, he denies talking about plans for new gaming legislation with the Government. 'I haven't had a discussion with anyone about it,' he insisted. 'It hasn't come up.'

``The Government's proposals mean that casinos can be built anywhere, rather than in designated areas. They will be allowed to advertise, membership rules will be abolished and clubs will be allowed to serve drinks on the gaming floor.

``Bannatyne, thought to be worth about £90 million, is the son of a steelworker from Clydebank near Glasgow. He left school without any qualifications and after his abrupt departure from the Navy he spent five years loafing about on Jersey.

``But he was eventually bitten by the business bug and set up an ice cream business in the North East before moving into property. His big break came when he spotted the demand for private nursing homes in 1987 and founded Quality Care Homes with a £20,000 investment. Ten years later he sold the company, pocketing £26 million..."

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