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Casino Companies Bet on Britain

11 September 2006

ENGLAND -- As reported by the UK Observer: "It's the last throw of the dice for the Las Vegas casino giants. Laden with billions of dollars, the world's biggest gambling firms are in the midst of an unprecedented international expansion drive.

"Macau, Singapore, Slovenia and Spain have become key territories for firms such as Las Vegas Sands, Harrah's and MGM Mirage. Now, after one hugely embarrassing false start, a new battle for Britain has begun.

"Four years ago, the world's biggest casino giants aggressively lobbied Tony Blair, and the schmoozing paid off. The Prime Minister gave US gambling chiefs the green light to build dozens of supercasinos full of slot machines in Britain.

"Two years ago, the same companies were forced to leave with their tails between their legs after the government backtracked on its casino liberalisation plans. Now the Yanks are back in town.

"…So a rethink has led to a new strategy: buying British gambling companies. The strategy is now being activated.

"Harrah's, the world's biggest casino firm, is set to snap up London Clubs International (LCI) for £280m - loose change for the $12bn company.

"…Industry insiders believe that MGM Mirage, the giant US entertainment combine, will move to buy a UK firm. It is unlikely to counterbid for LCI, but analysts believe it could pounce on the Rank Group, the one-time conglomerate that owns 35 UK casinos and is the second biggest bingo operator through its Mecca brand.

"Las Vegas Sands - the most successful American company at winning licences overseas - may also look to break into the UK. It already has plans to open casinos at several British football clubs…"

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