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Stratford Baby

Bringing a little Vegas to East London, the Aspers 24-hour casino officially opened to the public on December 1

Written by . Published on December 5th 2011.


Stratford Baby

ASPERS casino is the biggest in the UK and is situated in the largest shopping mall in Europe, Westfield Stratford City. The money men will have been very pleased with the opening day turnout as people swamped to gamble, have a drink or just see what was going down.

The casino is keen to highlight the amount of new jobs it has generated... An eight-week dealers training programme was run at Charlton Athletic to train groups of young croupiers.

There was a surprising mix of clientele, not the male dominated hardcore punters that you might have expected but what appeared to be an even mix between the sexes. Richard Smith, General Manager and Group Director of Gaming, said that the location inside a shopping centre could provide an ideal ‘man crèche’.  The rationale being that women go off shopping and men drink, watch sport or gamble. But as Bob Dylan sang, "times they are a-changin'". On evidence of the opening day, women were taking a front seat at the blackjack tables and even explaining the finer points of the game to their boyfriends.   

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The blackjack tables in particular seemed very popular to the extent that it was hard to actually find a table to play on. But the casino does seem to offer a variety of entertainment. Along with the casino staples, slots machines and roulette, there is also a restaurant, a large poker room, a sports bar and the Sky Bar which offers a little cabaret later in the evening.

The casino is keen to highlight the amount of new jobs it has generated. At a time when young people are really struggling to find any kind of work the casino has given jobs to a number of youngsters. An eight-week dealers training programme was run at Charlton Athletic to train groups of young croupiers. Two star pupils who ended up top of the class were Milita Jurgeleviciute and Alex Cox.

Speaking to them both you really get a sense that they are genuinely excited by their possible new career opportunities and how it has given them a sense of worth. Alex explains how he was holding down a cleaning job before being offered the opportunity through the Workplace scheme. Milita tells what an eventful opening day she has had where she was even interviewed by BBC News. Out of 440 jobs that the casino has created 70 per cent will be taken by local Newham residents with a majority going to the long term unemployed.

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Will Aspers be a success in the long run? Well, they have the right pedigree, their partners Crown Limited are involved with casinos in Melbourne and the Aussies do have a knack of merging gaming and entertainment in an appealing laid back informal style. Its location should make it a success come the Olympics. With a multiplex cinema, bowling, hotel accommodation and the shopping and dining options, the casino is part of the one stop £1.8 billion entertainment complex.

The 24-hour nature is the first of its kind ever in London. Major televised sporting events outside of prime time UK hours will be popular as will the chance to have an after-hours drink outside of night clubs (many that shut at 3am) and private members clubs. The large poker room facilities will cater for an increasingly popular interest in the game. As Old Blue Eyes crooned of New York, Stratford City, in terms of the casino anyway, is genuinely "a city that does not sleep."

 

Photos by Drew Cox

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Drew Cox shared this on Facebook on December 9th 2011.
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