• Manchester wins casino gamble

Manchester may have won the contest to house the UK's first super casino but Thistle owner BIL International looks like being one of the winners of gambling deregulation.
   The company has reportedly won 25 of the 89 casino licences awarded over the last couple of years, most of them at sites within its hotels.
   BIL Gaming Operations was only approved as a casino operator by the Gambling Commission in 2005. Its highest profile move came in August last year when it bought the Clermont Club in London's Mayfair from Rank for £31m.
   The division is headed by Paul Collis, the former managing director of Stanley Leisure's casino unit. It is planned to use the Clermont brand at other sites in the group.
   The casinos licences won by BIL are for sites much smaller than the super casino which is for 5,000 sq m. The gaming deregulation will also see eight so-called large casinos of up to 3,999 sq m and eight small casinos, although even the small casinos will be double the size of the current largest gaming house in London.
   The key numbers for operators are in the slot machine allowances: large casinos can have 150 and small 80. The current limit is just 20.
   Meanwhile, Thistle is still struggling to offload the 28 hotels it co-owns with Morgan Stanley and Atlantic Hotels, the vehicle of entrepreneur Andy Ruhan. A £400m deal with property investment group CIT was expected to be struck in December.
   The delay has seen debt rating agency Standard & Poor's lower its outlook on the securitised debt behind these properties.

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