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Struggling Resort Dreams of a Date With Lady Luck

18 May 2004

BLACKPOOL, England – As reported by the New York Times: ``Thirty years ago, 17 million people a year braved frigid seas and draconian bed-and-breakfasts to make the city the working-class resort of the north. Today, with sunny Spain a cheap plane ride away, the number has plunged, to 10.6 million, and Blackpool has found itself relying more and more on less well-behaved, hard-drinking, younger visitors.

``To recapture its popularity, Blackpool is banking on legislation that would bring Vegas-style gambling resorts to Britain, where casinos are small, highly restricted and free of glitz. If it passes, as it is likely to in some form, Britain would become the first country in Europe to usher in American-style casinos, with their acres of slot machines, restaurants, shops and shows, a change that would significantly change how Britons gamble.

``…Although Blackpool is remarkably organized and single-minded in its courtship of casinos, it is not alone. The legislation has brought a frenzy of deals and counter deals in nearly every big city in Britain, so many in fact, that the government is torn between delight and distaste.

``…Blackpool was the first to take the legislation seriously. The town council created a $1.5 billion master plan for the frayed seaside resort to thrive year-round. The plan calls for covered walkways (Blackpool's weather is notorious), trees, modern hotels and prettier public spaces. Four casino resorts would complete the picture.

``Stretched along the inhospitable Irish Sea, a spot regularly whipsawed by wind and rain, Blackpool is a testament to Britain's unblinking determination to go on holiday, ignore the weather and make the best of things. Outfitted with several piers, it is known for its kitschy carnival atmosphere, amusement park rides and its Tower, a replica, of sorts, of the Eiffel Tower…."

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