Birmingham City Council is out of the race for Britain's first super-casino - leaving Solihull with a clear run to campaign for an American-style gambling complex at the National Exhibition Centre.

The council's Tory-Liberal Democrat leadership decided yesterday not to recommend Birmingham to the Government as the location for a regional casino with unlimited cash prizes.

Instead, the cabinet threw its weight behind Solihull Council which is to submit a formal bid on behalf of the NEC.

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The decision put paid to Birmingham City Football Club's ambitious plan for a super-casino at Saltley, the income from which would have paid for a #120 million 55,000-seat multi-sports stadium and new home for the Blues.

Birmingham council leaders, with support from the Labour opposition, made it clear that they would seek a binding agreement with the NEC that money generated from a super-casino would be used to build a City of Birmingham Stadium capable of hosting a future Commonwealth Games.

The NEC and American casino partners MGM claim a super-casino would create thousands of jobs and release #350 million over ten years for the city council, an income stream that could be used to pay for a variety of regeneration projects including the new stadium and a sports village.

The NEC casino scheme attracted the support of many Birmingham-based business organisations. However, more than 20,000 people signed a petition urging the council to back the Birmingham City proposal.

There have been claims by the football club that the council is too closely involved to make rational decision, since it owns a controlling share in the NEC.

Council leader Mike Whitby said the NEC proposal should be viewed as a West Midlands project because it had the backing of five of the seven metropolitan councils.

The cabinet was told by Stephen Hughes, the interim chief executive, that it faced a "stark" choice.

If the cabinet wanted to support the NEC proposal, members had little option but to throw their weight behind Solihull, he argued.

Putting in a bid for Birmingham and still supporting Solihull would not work, he said.

Sir Albert Bore, leader of the Labour opposition group, said an NEC casino could help regenerate a large part of inner city Birmingham but the council had to be clear in its objectives from the beginning.

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"If this council is to line up with Solihull we need to have some assurances that cannot be unpicked that the benefits from a casino operation would be used to meet the objectives that we have all signed up for," he added.

The Government-appointed Casino Advisory Panel has given local authorities until the end of this month to declare an interest in hosting the first super-casino.

Solihull, if chosen by the CAP, would have to invite applications from interested parties raising the likelihood that the NEC proposal would not be the only bid to come forward.

S Davis from Great Barr, Birmingham: "I think it's an absolute disgrace that the NEC has been chosen. If ever there was a fantastic opportunity to redevelop the wasteland around Saltley this was it.

"A new sports stadium and all the subsequent jobs it would have created for such a deprived area would have been brilliant for this city but unfortunately I feel yet again we have been let down by Birmingham City Council. I am extremely disappointed by their decision and just simply cannot understand their justification in choosing this bid over the one from Birmingham City FC."

Jon Round from Beechfield Grove, Coseley: "The decsion is spot on. The NEC is an extablished venue and the clientelle that would be more likley to use it fits better with both Government plans and common sense. And with the greatest will in the world, would Blues even half-fill a 55,000 capacity stadium regularly, even if they do remain in the Premier League?"

Kevin Stephens from Sheldon, Birmingham: "Birmingham City council are a disgrace for backing the the NEC bid. The timing of the decision couldn't be better, on the day I received my increased council tax bill. I can only apologise to Birmingham City FC board of directors on behalf of our council, for not backing another great improvement plan they have put forward to try and improve a fast declining area of our city."

Frances Evans from Bearwood: "Due to the strength of the media hype which has surrounded the Blues bid from the start, no one is actually listening to what is being said about the decision taken yesterday. Everyone is so obsessed woth the idea of a "suit-run" NEC bid versus the "people's choice" BCFC proposal, that the real point is being obscured.

"That is, the Blues bid never outlined how it would pay for the sports village, just the casino and stadium. The NEC makes clear it would also provide income streams way in excess of what would be needed to pay for a sports village in Saltley, alongside a new stadium for Blues.  All without the hassle for local people of having the casino (and associated negative factors) on their doorstep. Where are the losers here?"

Jason Caulkin from East Sussex: "Well, as usual, Birmingham City Council have allowed a gift horse to pass them by. What an excellent advert for the City of Birmingham to have a super football and sports arena to showcase the talents of the so called "second city". I live in the south now but I would have been very proud for the people of Birmingham to get their own stadium and compete with London and Manchester for the larger events. So now all the revenue that could have been earnt has been lost to other cities."

Jack from Birmingham: "Let's face it, the reason why Karen Brady wanted a new super-casino next door to her new stadium is so that the directors at BCFC can line there pockets with the extra income that they would get every year. Nice try but I don't think the Blues were ever going to get the backing from the Council. It's all very well going on about regenerating an area, but I don't think Karren Brady would be interested in doing that if there wasn't anything in it for Birmingham City Football Club. The new super-casino was supposed to be a national thing to benefit everyone, not just one football club!"

Daniel Lloyd from Great Barr, Birmingham: "Regeneration of a deprived area. A multi sports stadium like no other in Birmingham or the West Midlands. A sports complex accessible to everyone of Birmingham and the West Midlands. Is there another sports complex capable of being a 'centre of excellence' for sport in these parts?

"Double standards? The council back 'no smoking' campaigns, get fit schemes, encourage kids off the sofas yet don't provide the facilities. Or could the #350m over 10 years swayed the committee? Hmmmm I wonder what their motives are? I wonder what their connections are? You don't think the financial links between the NEC, Birmingham Chamber of Commerce and Birmingham Forward had any influence on their decision. Do you?"

Ryan Brittain from Stratford Upon Avon: "I am not surprised by the decision of Birmingham City Council to back the NEC bid. As you stated in your paper recently the councillors involved have links with the NEC Group, so ultimately it will benefit them to support anything the NEC does. For many years the councillors in Birmingham and those in power have only ever delivered for their own benefit and this just adds fuel to this argument.

"I understand that BCFC had their reasons, but surely the council can see what a benefit this would be for the City. In my opinion I believe that the people of Birmingham who backed the BCFC bid will avoid using any facilities at the NEC and rightly so. The NEC can not manage what they currently have, losing some major events in recent years. I am glad I no longer have to live and pay my council tax to a council run by councillors for councillors and not for the people and what is best for them. Good Luck to Birmingham - the UK's third City!"

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