It’s almost too easy to list the parallels between Las Vegas and Leeds United. Gambling is a given of course (although we don’t do that any more, right Ken?), there’s the obsession with hotels and corporate hospitality, the over-commercialisation of everything and anything and – perhaps most obvious of all – the unfortunate influence of shady and self-serving “businessmen” whose sole interest is relieving you of all your hard-earned cash – then skimming as much of that off the top before the taxman gets his hands on it. (Maybe I’ve watched Casino one too many times?)
“Notice how in the count room nobody ever seems to see anything? Somehow, somebody’s always lookin’ the other way. Now, look at these guys. They look busy, right? They’re countin’ money. Who wants to bother them? I mean, God forbid they should make a mistake and forget to steal.” - Ace Rothstein, Casino (1995)
There’s even a casino in Las Vegas called the Monte Carlo, which – like Elland Road – has suffered severe fire damage in it’s recent history.
Of course, there are a couple of notable differences, like the weather and relative success for example. Vegas also knows how to treat it’s customers. The town may bleed you dry, but you’ll love every second of it. A few FREEbets, world renowned hospitality. Leeds United could probably stand to learn from that.
But if it was at all possible to twin a football club with a city, Dirty Leeds and Sin City sounds like an ideal pairing to me.
It seems only fitting then that Leeds United should get it’s own casino. Details released via the official site outline plans for a two-storey structure bolted onto an extended West Stand. Somewhat reassuringly, the club say they have no intention of operating the casino themselves, but will instead seek out experts to run it for them. Why is that so reassuring? Because if there’s any football club capable of messing up a cash cow like a casino, it’s Leeds United.
Some fans have raised objections to the idea of a casino, mostly on the grounds of further funds being diverted away from the squad to facilitate yet another Ken Bates “vanity project”. Generally speaking, I’d agree. The vast majority of Leeds United’s income still comes from gate receipts despite our loveable chairman’s excessive spending on corporate facilities, bars and restaurants. And it’s a well-trodden path, despite the massive expense of Chelsea Village, the project returned very small sums of money for the club.
In short, such ventures are simply not worth the outlay to a football club. The sums of cash available from hotels and retail pales in comparison to what is available from gate receipts and sponsorship deals which only increase with the success of the team itself. Spend well on the squad and the return will absolutely dwarf any profits a hotel will make – and the income will increase year after year while ever the club can maintain success. A hotel and various retail establishments meanwhile will still be returning comparatively small sums of cash.
However, a casino is a different thing entirely. These things are built on such a vast scale, with an eye-watering potential for profit that anyone opposed to these plans really needs to have a rethink. Out-of-town leisure facilities are big business nowadays, and are generally very successful. Look at the Xscape complex in Castleford for example, everyone said they were mad when the plans for that were unveiled, but almost a decade on they continue to prove the doubters wrong.
The casino also makes the hotel a more interesting proposition. There are plenty of companies – including the one I work for – that would be considering such locations for management conferences. Elland Road already has conferencing facilities, but these events are tediously boring and since they can often stretch over the course of a few days, companies will consider nearby leisure and entertainment facilities a big plus when booking because it keeps their staff happy.
There are other bonuses too. In recent years, football clubs have become playthings for the uber-rich so one with a casino attached to it will sound even more attractive to the bored Arab Sheikhs and Russian gangsters of this world. Furthermore, the building of a casino shouldn’t have any real effect on Leeds United’s ability to build a competitive squad. Unlike corporate hospitality, bars, shops and restaurants, you’ll find no shortage of people happy to invest in a casino – it’s a guaranteed money-spinner.
The only real problem is an over-saturated market. Leeds already has four casinos that I’m aware of (The Grovesner, Napoleon’s, Gala and Alea) but it should be noted that Leeds United’s planning application is for a “super” casino, one which has a license for much bigger jackpots than it’s rivals. This should take care of the competition.
So there you have it. The Scratching Shed is pro-casino, pro-hotel (if the casino is built), and pro-conferencing facilities (if the casino and hotel are built). Pro-Bates? Let’s not get carried away…
“The end result of all the bright lights, and the comp trips, and all the champagne, and free hotel suites, and all the broads and all the booze. It’s all been arranged just for us to get your money” - Ace Rothstein, Casino (1995)