The battle to identify a site for a West Midlands super casino swung decisively behind the National Exhibition Centre last night.

Birmingham City Council voted in principle to ask the Government for a regional casino, with the leaders of the two main political parties expressing support for the NEC over a rival £217 million bid by Birmingham City Football Club.

Tory council leader Mike Whitby and Labour opposition leader Sir Albert Bore said they thought the NEC site would be preferable because it was away from housing and the sensitive Muslim communities of the inner city.

However, both men made clear their belief that income from an NEC casino could be used to help Birmingham City build a new stadium at Saltley.

Sir Albert ( Ladywood) claimed the council was dragging its feet by refusing to select a preferred site for a casino.

Other cities, including Manchester, Liverpool and Sheffield, had already submitted applications to the Government and other bidders in the West Midlands were poised to act.

"If we do not quickly become site-specific we will be third or fourth in the race for a single regional casino," he added.

The need for urgency was echoed by Ken Hardeman, cabinet member for regeneration.

A casino, with up to 1,250 slot machines offering unlimited prizes and 40 gaming tables, would draw in "mega millions" of economic development and could help transform Saltley, he said.

Muslim councillors spoke out against a casino, although most said they did not mind if it went to the NEC.