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Fortune shines on derelict hotel

The wheel of fortune has turned again for The Graven Hotel. Photo Shetnews

AMBITIOUS plans to bring a new lease of life to an abandoned Shetland hotel are being put in place by a US company who want to take advantage of the current oil boom in the isles.

Louisiana gambling emporium Black Gold Casino has set its sights on the derelict Graven Hotel, near Sullom Voe oil terminal for its venture.

The Graven Hotel was built during World War Two to provide entertainment for troops stationed at Sullom Voe when it served as a military air base.

However the building’s glory days were during the 1970s when North Sea oil transformed Shetland’s economy with thousands of construction workers arriving to build the terminal.

Since it closed 30 years ago the hotel has fallen into a dismal state of repair, but with the islands’ second oil boom once again bringing hundreds of men into Shetland the US firm has spotted an opportunity.

The Black Gold Casino and travel park in Duson, Louisiana

“Our business is taking bets and we’re putting our money on Shetland,” said Texan-born oil heiress April Moncrief, who started visiting Shetland five years ago to explore her ancestry.

Speaking via Skype from her home, she said: “Back here in Duson, Louisiana, we got a swamp ‘n’ roll gambling joint that really jumps, and when I came over to your beautiful little islands I just couldn’t believe you had nothing like it with all the music and men that you have.

“I mean, it’s a honeypot you have over there with so much money being made and so little to do, especially up there in oil country. I ain’t never seen nothing like it.”

Moncrief, who is related to oil billionaire WA “Tex” Moncrief Junior, admitted it would be easier to start on a green field site, but said she had fallen in love with the history of The Graven Hotel.

“Sometimes I think you guys don’t appreciate what you have. The Graven goes back to the Second World War, they say they called it The Pigswill, I love it. And when I hear about Grace (Young, the building’s owner) and the early days of oil I get a shiver up my spine.”

Once she has her gambling licence in place, Moncrief hopes to open for business this summer with mobile trailers offering casino and bar facilities, while she starts restoring the old hotel.

The rear of the Graven Hotel, where there are plans to open a trailer park. Photo Shetnews

She is also eyeing up the land behind the building as a trailer park to help with Shetland’s shortage of accommodation.

“You got all these men, some can’t fly to the rigs for the fog or the wind, and they stuck with nothing to do and nowhere to stay. So I’m going to give them somewhere to stay and a good time while they’re there…and I know about having a good time.”

Local councillor and Delting community council chairman Alastair Cooper said he had no problems with a casino arriving in the islands, saying it was another way of boosting the local economy, creating jobs and keeping money in the isles.

“I have fond memories of the building when I was a young man and I would be quite happy to see it returned to business use,” said Cooper, who also chairs Shetland Islands Council’s development committee.

“We only have one betting shop in Shetland and it would be good to have one more distraction to take money off folk while they’re here.”