Tycoon who knows what ‘real people’ wantOn November 16, 2021 by Margarita Murphy
Trevor Hemmings, 67, now lives in a Channel Islands tax haven but started out as a Lancashire brickie who left school at 15. He is expected to grow from a millionaire into a billionaire thanks to Labour’s deregulation of casinos.
His Blackpool-based firm Leisure Parcs has proved adept at enlisting local Labour MPs and pressure groups behind a casino free-for-all, with the promise that a Las Vegas-style “resort casino” will mean regeneration for a seaside town with its best days behind it.
Leisure Parcs has put Paul Dimoldenberg on its payroll. Dimoldenberg is a Westminster Labour councillor and director of the lobbying firm Good Relations, alongside former Labour official David Hill, whose extensive political links include the fact that his partner Hilary Coffman is a senior press officer at Downing Street.
Mr Hemmings is working on his casino plans in partnership with banking group HBOS. He made his first money in building, before branching into leisure through Pontin’s, the holiday camp company, and Center Parcs, the Dutch holiday group. He then moved on to owning racecourses and casinos.
“You will not see me in the restaurants at Lingfield or Ayr racecourse,” he said. “I queue up at the chippy. You have to learn about the real people, and understand their requirements.”
He has interests in slot machine software, and is planning casinos on racecourses at Wolverhampton, Lingfield and Windsor which he controls through Arena Leisure, a company also financed by the Bank of Scotland.
In September 2000, Littlewoods sold him their UFABet pools division for £140m, again loaned by the Bank of Scotland. Rechristened Sportech and with a 28% share stake held by the Bank of Scotland, the firm is seeking to launch casinos on the internet, in Alderney and the Isle of Man.
But Mr Hemmings’ most spectacular scheme is to turn Blackpool into the Las Vegas of the north.
Already the owner of Blackpool Tower, the Winter Gardens, all three piers and a large chunk of the Golden Mile, he wants to build a £130m casino there. Pharaoh’s Palace will boast a 1,000-bed hotel, 3,000 slot machines and an enormous gaming floor. Once again, the consortium he has formed – Leisure Parcs – has HBOS as a player, with a 15% stake in the company. HBOS boasted in their last report: “We will be the fastest-growing UK company in banking and consumer credit, establishing ourselves comfortably as the largest provider of new credit cards, issuing 1.1 million in 2001.”
Another winner is Leonard Steinberg, former Conservative vice-treasurer and party donor, who once said he had “no sympathy with Labour politicians at all”. Nevertheless, thanks to Labour’s policy change this 66-year-old multimillionaire who started out as a Belfast bookie is likely to amass further riches. Steinberg’s Liverpool-based Stanley Leisure company has acquired more than 40 casinos and 600 betting shops. He was behind the launch of Salford University’s industry-funded Centre for Gambling and Commercial Gaming, employing former Labour minister Lord Donoughue’s son Steve.