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WEDDING LICENCES

UK’s Maxims Southend earns

wedding licence

The UK’s first casino to gain a license to hold weddings on its property, Maxims Southend could set a new trend and introduce a new revenue stream, as manager James Howard told Casino International

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re-recession, it had been claimed by specialist press that the average UK wedding cost in the region of £40,000 – or the equivalent of a deposit on a large house. The figures are no doubt more

sensible now after the global banking crisis, but it’s still an expensive day. So why shouldn’t casinos get in on the act of hosting them? Well, the obvious obstacle is age – most weddings involve children in some way, for better or for worse. But is there a market out there for casinos? James Howard, General Manager, Maxims and Mint Casinos, Southend on Sea, thinks so…

Casino International: Why have you acquired this licence?

James Howard: The history of Westcliff Casino (AKA Maxims, Southend) is such that, the success of it is its social penetration and its acceptance of the casino as a social environment. It’s an incredibly busy casino, especially considering the size of Southend. We have upwards of 4,000 attendees per week; the marketing strategy for us has been to work to become a socially acceptable destination. Both restaurants and the bar are very, very busy, so we think that has been successful and we’ve integrated into the area’s social fabric. We host charity functions (the mayor hosts

her own charity functions there), churches have hosted charity events with us – hosting weddings honestly seemed like the next logical step. We were told by the council that they may be interested in people having weddings with us, we thought about it and decided to go for it. We made the application for the licence half expecting to be turned down, with the age limit being that no-one under the age of 18 can come in to the venue. They were very keen though, and we got the licence for three years. We’re devising our launch strategy to let the public know that we now offer this service too. We’re not saying we want quirky or weird and

wonderful weddings – it’s an extension of what we’re already doing, it’s all part of the same strategy, saying that you don’t have to be into gaming to enjoy a casino. That’s worked well in Westcliff in Southend.

CI: How will you get around the obstacle of not being able to have any children attending? There’s always children at weddings…

JH: …except when people have second weddings, and sometimes people just want a smaller ‘do’, not a big family affair, more of a personal private affair. Some people will recognise it’s a great opportunity not to have to worry about kids running around like lunatics – there will be some interest from those people too, we’re sure!

CI: What makes the casino attractive as a

venue?

JH: We have around 30,000 square feet, and

it borders the Thames estuary, so to take advantage of the view we have floor to ceiling glass, and the views are spectacular. It was refurbished just a couple of years ago, when it was rebranded as a Maxims. It’s a very clean looking, very modern building.

CI: Have you had any take-up on the

weddings yet?

JH: There’s been a few tentative enquiries, and the first ones were actually with kids. We haven’t promoted it heavily yet, but we plan to promote it by giving away a £15,000 wedding experience. The competition runs from June and it’s in conjunction with a local newspaper, so we’re really targeting the local area.

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