Owner of Casino nightclub in Guildford reveals how club got its name

Saturday 25th January 2020

Entrepreneur Michel Harper first started running the venue in 1991, but is now just the landlord

The Casino nightclub is a popular nighttime venue in Guildford town centre, but many may not know about its history.

The building in Onslow Street was formerly a Coral bingo hall before Guildford-born entrepreneur Michel Harper bought the premises in 1991.

Mr Harper opened the venue under the name of Harper's, but this was later changed to The Drink to compliment the "evolving style of entertainment".

It was only in 2009 that the club received its current name and branding.

SurreyLive spoke to Mr Harper on Friday (January 24) to find out more about the venue's history and the reason for its name.

He said: "At that time, my passion was within the gaming industry and, specifically, casinos.

"I was trained and I had done all the different aspects of gaming in different parts of the world and all the elite establishments in the UK.

"I bought it [Casino] as a bit of a dilapidated bingo hall, so gaming was already happening on the site. I converted it into a nightclub and had an à la carte restaurant.

"I traded it as Harper's for quite a number of years, but with the evolution of fashion and such, the music was moving more towards house music and a different style of entertainment.

"I then changed the name to The Drink and that is when we used to have quite a lot of celebrities and guest appearances."

Mr Harper explained that he had 12 years of experience in the casino industry before purchasing the site, and it was his dream to submit an application for a casino in the town.

However, due to the deregulation of the gaming industry under Prime Minister Tony Blair's leadership, this dream could not become a reality.

"It is quite obvious that my aspiration was to bring a casino leisure environment to Guildford with all of the upmarket aspects of entertainment," he said.

"The word casino in effect does not mean it has to have gaming. Casinos are a centre of entertainment and hospitality and, normally, prestige because of the scale and offerings.

"My nightclub would have evolved into a casino complex with a nightclub and bars, but unfortunately, a General Election was called, and in the procedure called the wash-up, the gaming regulations fell by the wayside."

Since the legislation did not permit Mr Harper to build a casino, he decided to change the name from The Drink to Casino in 2009.

He added: "I wanted a casino but the legislation did not pass, which is a great shame, I think. Everywhere in the world, casinos are not seen as a negative aspect.

"The UK has one of the tightest regulated gaming industries in the world, and casinos bring many benefits - employment, entertainment, investment.

"It is a shame that Guildford could not be put on the map with this entertainment offering."

Source

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