Las Vegas-based Station Casinos has held exploratory talks with the Gala bingo and casino group about a joint venture to operate small British neighborhood gambling parlors, the British newspaper The Observer reported.
Station Casinos executives declined to say whether they’d held talks with Gala, citing corporate policy against discussing potential transactions, but Station Casinos General Counsel Scott Nielson said the report was an exaggeration.
“Basically we’ve been in the U.K. on a couple of different occasions working on SunOnline,” he said, referring to the company’s deal to jointly run an Isle of Man-based Internet casino site with Sun International Hotels. “We’ve been looking at all aspects of gaming here, and basically we’ve been looking around.”
The Observer report said Station held talks with Gala about running small casino emporiums, which would be allowed in retail spaces larger than 2,000 square feet under new government proposals.
Station would provide its neighborhood-gaming expertise while Gala would provide its knowledge of the British gaming market, the report added.
The move would mark the locals casino giant’s second overseas venture from its Las Vegas base; the company hopes by September to begin participating in its SunOnline venture.
Station announced in March a UFA deal to purchase half of Sun’s already operating Isle Of Man-licensed site.
Nevada Gaming Control Board member Scott Scherer said Tuesday he hadn’t heard of Station’s talks with Gala.
“It’s a well-regulated environment, but, like all of our licensees, they’d have to make sure to comply with Nevada rules as well as British rules,” Scherer said.
The Observer report noted that British problem gambling experts were outraged by the prospect of American casino operators opening small-scale gambling dens in retail shopping districts.
University of Nevada, Las Vegas professor and casino-industry expert Bill Thompson said Station shouldn’t pursue a deal to export its neighborhood gaming expertise.
“Sending Las Vegas-style locals gaming to England is giving them the worst of Las Vegas,” Thompson said. “It would be awful.
“That’s almost as bad as exporting our grocery-store slots.”
Thompson said Station Casinos’ locals expertise would be an asset in running the proposed small United Kingdom clubs.
“Station can do it better than anyone else,” Thompson said. “But they shouldn’t. “This is the worst side of gaming, placing slots in the middle of a row of shops.”
Thompson said the move could be risky for U.S. operators also considering opening resort-style casinos in British tourist areas.
“The government’s allowing the rape of their own people,” Thompson said. “I hope it offends people in England, but the potential money for the government (from licensing and taxing the establishments) will probably trump that outrage.”