outh African Sol Kerzner made the disclosure as he prepared for Saturday's gala opening of Mazagan Beach Resort, 90 km outside Casablanca, Morocco, where snake-charmers and belly dancers are set to mingle with celebrities including Naomi Campbell, Lindsay Lohan, Naomi Watts and Simon and Yasmin Le Bon.
However, after the Government granted a single trial super-casino licence to Manchester in January 2007, AEG announced that the casino would not be built in the near future. "We could still do it," said Kerzner, Kerzner International chairman and CEO. "We built the slab where it was going to be on an intermediate level of the building and I thought the whole plan was pretty sensational. It seemed almost a slam dunk.
"The development of the O2 Arena went ahead anyway but the idea was to create it as a great entertainment complex for Europe, which would have drawn tourists from all over. Perhaps in the next year or two, the Government might take another look at it."
Asked if he understood opposition to casinos from religious groups he replied: "If we were opening gambling halls, I would absolutely agree that it's immoral but it's a very different thing that we've done here in Morocco. If it's part of the growth of the tourist industry, then I think there's much more to balance it. We've just created 2,000 jobs. That's what puzzles me about London. You have many casinos but they are casinos doing nothing for the tourist industry and doing very little for the economy."
The us$ 410 million Mazagan hotel and casino development is Kerzner International's third resort opening in 12 months, following Atlantis, The Palm, Dubai last November and the One&Only Cape Town in April. The two previous schemes don't have casinos.
However, planned One&Only hotels in Dubai, Zanzibar and Bangkok have been put on hold, along with a scheme to build Kerzner International's first casino in Las Vegas in partnership with MGM and a us$ 984 million expansion of the Atlantis in Dubai.