Thursday, July 06, 2006

Prescott and the Dome: Clarifier

One thing not addressed in this post is the exact arrangements between the Government and AEG regarding the big...can it be a beer gut?...pimple on the Thames. As made clear in comments here, the terms under which AEG got the Dome specify that the Government gets a share in the profits over and above AEG's costs plus a percentage markup. So, the insertion of a casino in the Dome would tend to bring forward the point at which the State makes money on the deal, not to mention increase the sums involved.

It's been pointed out elsewhere that the thing was quite a while earlier, well before the Gambling Bill. Pshaw. I don't see that this gets them off the hook - in fact it strikes me as more incriminating than Anschutz buying the Dome after the Gambling Bill passes, because implying a quid pro quo. Anyway, consider this report from the HoC Public Accounts Committee. Note that, although the c-word is used later in the document, the summary description of the AEG scheme makes no mention of a casino at all...although this had been mentioned in the press prior to the report.

Eventually you come to this:
10. There are various elements in this scheme which may generate future profits to the taxpayer, but which English Partnerships did not assume when evaluating the deal. For example the extent to which there might be a share in future profits from the Dome Arena and Waterfront is uncertain. Also in 2003 the Anschutz Group expressed interest in placing at the Dome one of the eight large Regional Casinos proposed in the government's draft Gambling legislation. At the time of Meridian Delta's original proposals there had been no discussion on casinos. A casino would require both planning permission and a licence under the recently enacted Gambling Act. The Government has indicated that there will only be one Regional Casino, and it is not yet clear whether the Dome will be successful in obtaining a licence. The Department has no firm view about whether a casino would be a positive or negative factor in terms of value to the deal. It is not party to any related negotiations with the Anschutz Entertainment Group, but recognises that Anschutz are pursuing it because they expect it to increase their profits, in which English Partnerships would take a 15% share after the operator had made a prior return. English Partnerships have not however assumed any return from a casino.[11]
So as early as 2003 they were talking slot machines. I wonder how often John Prescott has been to see the old railroad tycoon before his recent trip? According to the report, the sale closed in June, 2004. It's hard not to see, as they say, a pattern of behaviour here. As far as I can make out, "the Department" is a strangely worded reference to the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, not (as I first thought) to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

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