Last week, the London Evening Standard, or the Daily Mail with a lobotomy as I prefer to think of it, carried a significant report about the plans for the final, much-belated commercial use of the Millenium Dome. The Standard loyally swooned over the two huge arenas, the indoor street of bars and restaurants, the exhibition, concert, conference, and sporting facilities. They even found fairly friendly words for the news that mobile network operator O2 (BT Cellnet as was. I can't stand this trend for fancy names in the industry - a phone company should call itself something like PTT Globtelnet, not pretend to be Nathan Barley's PR agency) was to paint the biggest corporate logo in the world on top of the bugger.
Hold that thought - the biggest corporate logo in the world. Kinda fitting end for Blair's Dome, no? I was personally counting on the place for a mausoleum to Blair, where his mortal remains could lurk in a granite coffin stuffed with his native earth, next to Alastair Campbell and Rebekah Wade's identical sarcophagi. After all, the war crimes trial and public execution could have been staged in the place, too - plenty of room and a truly dramatic setting, good security and lighting.
Bah well, I'm sure we'll find somewhere.
The Standard mentioned, indeed headlined, that part of Philip Anschutz's plan for the monster was a "Las Vegas-style casino". But they completely missed the significance of this. Remember the fantastic Gambling Bill our lovely and intelligent culture secretary Tessa Jowell rammed through Parliament immediately prior to the election? That originally foresaw monster casinos springing from the earth pretty much everywhere (I paraphrase), but after an outbreak of conscience spread through the back benches, the government was forced to slash the Bill dramatically in order that it didn't meet the ID Cards Bill's fate and die horribly when Parliament rose.
Crucially, they hacked the number of big casinos permitted - their backbench critics wanted no part of them at all, and secured two successive reductions. But the government was insistent that some big casinos must make it, before the election. Finally they got down to permitting only one single casino. There, though, they stuck and refused to budge. The Bill became law, with one large casino permitted. Which was an improvement, at least, on the original plan under which Britain would have become one large casino.
Can you tell what it is yet? More precisely, have you guessed exactly where the one large casino is going to be yet? And precisely why we have to have a large casino?
Got it in one. It's the dealbreaker on the sale of the Dome. Casinos are a great way to make money, so long as you're not a punter. And the best ones are like this one: big, and plonked somewhere that draws herds of cow-eyed tourists. The old-fashioned Mayfair high-roller job is worse, because it's a far safer deal to scoop the house percentage on thousands and thousands of little bets than to run the risk of Sheikh Whoever having a winning streak with million-quid chips. London Clubs International, the operator of most of London's casinos, occasionally has to wap the stock market with profits warnings after the 'rollers get lucky. This doesn't happen with slot machines and video poker.
So, as they say, where's the outrage? Apart from right here...I wrote in my column for the Brussels Sprout this month that British Eurosceptics have a one-eyed view of corruption. They went ape about Barroso's holiday on Latsis's yacht, but say nothing about Latsis pére's massive financing of the Conservative Party. More broadly, corruption, to the British in general, is something that foreigners do.