THE long-awaited return of speedway to Reading is back to square one because a �1m casino gamble has failed.

Stadia UK's plans for a racino - a speedway and greyhound stadium with a casino - in Island Road has collapsed and Reading Borough Council's cabinet agreed this week to put the site back on the market for development.

The plans were approved six years ago, with the time limit extended last year, but after two casino companies dropped out, Stadia UK has had to pull the plug on the project and leave the way open to all-comers.

Council leader Jo Lovelock said: "Time has ticked on and on and on. We are open to offers and it does not preclude them from coming in with a new offer. We are still keen to see speedway there, particularly as part of a multi-use facility because it would not be happening every day."

There is still hope for fans of the sport because Gaming International, parent company of Stadia UK, told The Chronicle yesterday (Wednesday) it is prepared to go back to the drawing board and make a new approach to the council for a speedway and greyhound stadium without a casino.

Chief executive Clarke Osborne explained that original partners, Stanley Casinos, withdrew in 2008 and his company instead teamed up with Grosvenor Casinos, only to see it jump ship and win permission earlier this year to build its own gambling complex in Rose Kiln Lane.

Stadia UK has ploughed �1m into the project, including paying for environmental tests on the former rubbish dump site, and Mr Osborne said: "We are keen to bring speedway back to the site, we have not spent �1m because we like spending money.

"We genuinely believe that Reading and that site is the right place for speedway."

Former Chronicle speedway reporter, Nick Dyer, said the project's collapse is heartbreaking for fans clinging to hopes of the sport's Reading revival since Smallmead Stadium closed in 2008. He claimed the racino idea always appeared "overly ambitious".

Mr Dyer said the news comes in an already tragic year for speedway, following the deaths of Reading Racers Lee Richardson and Malcolm Holloway. He added: "I still hold out faint hope for a lesser application."