Blackpool has been told there are 'no front runners' in the race to build Britain's first mega-casino.

Announcing the appointment of the six-person board which will decide where the first casino is to be built, gambling minister, Richard Caborn, said the 'slate had been wiped clean' and insisted every local authority interested in accomodating a casino would have a chance to make its case.

"I know there has already been a great deal of speculation over the location of the new regional casino," said Mr Caborn: "This isn't surprising given the regeneration benefits it will bring.

"But the appointment of this panel shows there are no favourites or front-runners. The slate has been wiped clean and every local authority will have the chance to make its case."

He added: "Our priority is to get a proper assessment of the social impact new types of casino will have, particularly on problem gambling."

The panel will be chaired by Professor Stephen Crow, a former chief planning inspector, and contains senior figures from local government and industry.

Doug Garrett chief executive of ReBlackpool, the urban regeneration company charged with implementing Blackpool's resort Masterplan, welcomed the appointment.

"We're working hard to deliver Blackpool's Masterplan, which is driven by a vision of a revitalised resort, capable of attracting visitors from around the world-but it's vital that we secure the economic catalyst for this regeneration. The regional casino would provide that catalyst and help catapult Blackpool back into the ranks of world-class destination resorts - where it belongs."

But Blackpool isn't the only area with big plans for casinos. Glasgow City Council has already given planning permission for a casino at Glasgow Rangers' Ibrox Stadium, Cardiff wants a casino to form the centrepiece of a new 'sports village' while Coventry has launched a 'Coventry Now' campaign appealing for a casino licence for the city's new Ricoh Arena.

The committee's decision, which must be approved by Parliament, is due late next year although no casino is likely to open until at least 2010.

- Newspaper reports last week have hinted that the Government may backtrack on the pre-election deal which ensured that only one resort casino would be built. The reports say the Government may allow as many 12 of the largest casinos. Any change would require a vote in both houses of Parliament.

- Blackpool's existing casinos will this week see the benefits of changes to the gambling laws, including the abolition of a rule under which casino visitors must sign up as members 24 hours before they are allowed to play, which was scrapped as of Monday.