Coventry has stormed into pole position in the race to open Britain's first supercasino, raising the possibility it might take Birmingham ten years to catch up.
American gaming giants Isle of Capri announced it has a certificate of consent from the Gaming Board for a casino and entertainment complex at the Ricoh Arena in Coventry.
The #60 million project, at the new home of Coventry City FC, has the full backing of Coventry City Council, local MPs, business leaders, community groups and could open by the end of next year.
A subterranean building that would house the casino is in place, is ready to be occupied and has a gaming licence granted by Coventry magistrates.
Isle of Capri has begun a #30 million fit-out of the building, but can only use a quarter of the 130,000 sq ft under existing rules.
The firm hopes to persuade the Government to approve a regional casino, to enable the whole site to be used.
Members of the Gaming Commission visited the Ricoh Arena last year to talk about the economic regeneration benefits of bringing a regional casino to Coventry.
Council officials and Isle of Capri executives are mounting a massive public campaign urging Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott to choose Coventry for the first regional casino, rather than Blackpool which was an early favourite.
Birmingham's chances of securing a regional casino could be set back by at least ten years if Mr Prescott chooses Coventry. The Government would require a period of two or three years to monitor the first casino of its type before deciding whether to permit others to operate.
However, it is unlikely Mr Prescott would approve more than one regional casino in the West Midlands, in the short term.
Allan Solomon, Isle of Capri executive vice-president, said: "Birmingham wants a casino and so does Blackpool, but when you look at the hoops you have to go through to get planning approval we are five years ahead.
"We have parking at the Ricoh, we are not in anyone's back yard and we have total council support."
Coventry's campaign sparked a row in Birmingham, where the council has agreed in principle to bid for a casino but is undecided about a site.
Two rival schemes are battling for council support - one in Saltley, attached to a new stadium for Birmingham City FC, and the other at the National Exhibition Centre.
Ken Hardeman, cabinet member for regeneration, said Coventry could be in danger of jumping the gun.
Coun Hardeman ( Con Brandwood) said: "No doubt Coventry will be lobbying hard but no one will look at any options until an advisory group has been set up."
Coventry City Council and the Isle of Capri said at the launch of their casino bid yesterday that the project would bring 4,000 new jobs to an area of high unemployment and social deprivation.
Council leader Ken Taylor (Con Earlsdon) said: "We hope that the people of Coventry, as well as MPs, businesses and community groups across the Midlands, will get behind the Coventry Now campaign, helping us to capitalise on this important opportunity."