Updated from 10:05 a.m. EDTCasino companies' odds of big wins across the pond have fallen, now that the U.K. government has reduced the number of Las Vegas-style super casinos it will allow to one from eight. The government was forced to make the move Tuesday in order to keep its gambling legislation alive in the face of Conservative Party opposition to a profusion of super casinos. A spokesman for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport confirmed that the government backed down on the number in order to pass other key parts of the legislation, including a measure that will allow online casino companies to set up shop in the U.K. He said the government had yet to make a decision on where the single large casino would be. The move marks another retreat for the government, which in November reduced the proposed number of super, or regional, casinos to eight from as many as 40. The latest version of the legislation does allow the government to go to Parliament in the future for an increase in the number of large casinos. The latest legislation threatens to dash all but one of the big projects proposed in recent years by publicly traded casino operators. Harrah's Entertainment ( HET) had plans to develop as many as eight casinos throughout the U.K. in a 50-50 joint venture with the Gala Group. MGM Mirage ( MGG), which is in the process of merging with Mandalay Resort Group ( MBG), had joined forces with several U.K. partners.
Last April, MGM Mirage announced a deal with Peel Holdings PLC to develop gambling and entertainment complexes in four cities: Liverpool, Manchester, Salford and Glasgow. That followed an announcement in February that the company would team with British Land Co. and spend between $364 million and $455 million on a casino next to the Meadowhall Shopping Center in Sheffield. In October of 2003, MGM Mirage said it would partner with Earls Court and Olympia Group to build a $255 million casino in London's Olympia Exhibition Centre. Meanwhile, Caesars Entertainment ( CZR), which is being acquired by Harrah's, last October announced plans for a $600 million gambling and entertainment complex next to London's Wembley Stadium. And Bahamas-based Kerzner International ( KZL) has plans to develop three casino resorts around the U.K. Casino stocks were mixed Wednesday. Harrah's slid 14 cents, or 0.2%, to $63.86, while Kerzner fell 79 cents, or 1.3%, to $60.38. But Caesars gained 6 cents, or 0.3%, to $19.57; MGM Mirage rose 61 cents, or 0.9%, to $70.58; and Mandalay Resort Group inched up 3 cents, or 0.04%, to $70.53.