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Belfast peer and betting millionaire dies aged 73

Tory peer Lord Steinberg, a self-made millionaire who built his business empire from scratch, has died at the age of 73.

Tributes have been paid to the Belfast-born businessman who was the founder of the Stanley Leisure casino and bookmaking empire — a business that began in the 1950s with just two shops in Northern Ireland and grew to over 600 outlets throughout the UK.

Leonard Steinberg, who passed away in England, was the first member of Northern Ireland's Jewish community to be elevated to the peerage. He was a leading member of the Conservative Party and served as Tory deputy treasurer for many years. He was also president of Northern Ireland Friends of Israel.

Lord Steinberg's family came to Belfast from Latvia in the early years of the last century. Despite living in England for over three decades he never lost his Belfast accent or his interest in Northern Ireland affairs.

His career as a bookie began following the early death of his optician father in 1954. Lord Steinberg admitted he failed to make a success of his father's optician's shop and instead ran a betting business from the back of the milk bar premises which his family also owned.

Work commitments after the death of his father prevented Lord Steinberg from going to university but his interests were wide: he enjoyed music, art and stamp collecting. He attended Belfast Inst and remained very active in supporting his old school.

He left for England after being shot five times in the thigh by republican gunmen on the doorstep of his Antrim Road home in 1977. He had always refused to pay protection money to republican or loyalist terrorists.

As a result of the move Lord Steinberg based his business in Liverpool and expanded it to the Isle of Man, Yorkshire and the north west of England. In 2005 Stanley Leisure was sold to William Hill and a separate buyer acquired the casino business, with Lord Steinberg retaining a substantial minority shareholding.

In responding to the official announcement of his life peerage in May 2004 he informed the London Jewish Chronicle: “I am in some respects devoted to three things: I am Jewish, Northern Irish and an Ulster Unionist. I hope that doesn't cause confusion.”

His time at Westminster was devoted mostly to gambling issues, the Middle East, Northern Ireland and the concerns of the Jewish community in the UK.

He is survived by wife Beryl, two children and grandchildren.

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