Former Sex Toys and Lingerie Store Could Become Casino

Posted on: May 21, 2024, 07:44h. 

Last updated on: May 21, 2024, 09:49h.

A former retail store in the United Kingdom that sold sex toys and lingerie could become a casino room with slot machines, bingo, and sports betting.

Merkur Northampton UK sex toys lingerie
Merkur Gaming’s “Cashino” in Northampton is seeking to expand its footprint to adjacent stores that shuttered amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. This photo is from April 2021 when a sex toys and lingerie Ann Summers boutique was still operating on Abington Street. (Image: Google Maps)

Ann Summers, a British retailer that specializes in gifts for the bedroom, relocated its Northampton location at 9a Abington Street last summer. The company shuttered its Abington business in July 2023 in favor of the Grosvenor Shopping Center.

The Abington St. retail space has since been petitioned for rezoning to allow a 24/7 business to operate there. The request comes from Merkur Gaming, a slot and electronic gaming manufacturer that operates more than 220 gaming venues across the UK.

Merkur presently operates a “Cashino,” the brand the company uses for many of its slots rooms, just two doors down at 7 Abington Street. Merkur wants to expand its Northampton footprint by extending its gaming operations to the two adjacent retail businesses.

A former Moss Bros. Men’s clothing store permanently closed at 9 Abington in early 2021. Founded in London in 1851, Moss was delisted from the London Stock Exchange in 2020 amid financial difficulty.

Ann Summers was founded in 1971 and has about 80 retail locations across the UK.

Cashing in on High Street Woes

Abington Street is Northampton’s “high street,” a term referring to a UK town’s primary shopping corridor. High streets typically offer numerous betting shops like Merkur’s Cashinos.

Northampton’s once-thriving high street has struggled to rebound from the COVID-19 pandemic. That’s allowed betting operators like Merkur to be bullish on expanding their brick-and-mortar footprints in many UK cities and towns. Merkur said recently it will invest more than £5 million over the next 12 months to open new high street venues.

The proposal involves the bringing back of a longstanding vacant unit into beneficial commercial use, which will trigger several economic benefits and allow an established operator within this part of the town center to relocate and continue contributing to the center,” a Merkur spokesperson told the Northampton Chronicle. “The principle of the proposed change of use… will protect and enhance the vitality and viability of this part of the town center.”

Merkur stresses it’s not a fixed-odds betting terminal (FOBT) operator, the slot-like machines that have been dubbed the “crack cocaine” of gambling by critics. Merkur instead claims to focus on low-stakes betting.

“Remember, gambling is NOT a way to make money!” the company tweeted recently on X. The company’s tagline is “to provide the best quality value for money and entertainment in the low stake, high volume slot machine marketplace.”

Local Opposition

Merkur’s zoning request change to expand its Cashino on Abington St. could face opposition from Northamptonshire Police, Fire, and Crime Commissioner Danielle Stone. The Labour councilor has repeatedly issued her antagonism for more betting shops.

We already have too many casinos, betting shops, pawn shops, and loan sharks chasing the money of disadvantaged households,” Stone said. “It’s like a tax on the poor.”

Northampton, like most other major cities in the UK, has numerous betting and bookmaker shops. Along with Merkur, Abington St. currently has Paddy Power, Ladbrokes, and Betfred shops where FOBTs, slots, bingo, and sports betting are offered.

The rezoning request is expected to be voted on by the West Northamptonshire Council during its June 24 meeting.