Dragonara Casino Concession Extension Draws Ire from Local Business Community
Category : News
Land-based casino operators and other businesses in Malta are mulling legal action against the 64-year extension of the Dragonara Casino concession granted to Dragonara Gaming Ltd. last week, local news outlet Malta Today reports.
Casino operators argue that the concession extension being approved by Maltese lawmakers without a proper bidding process breached state aid rules.
The casino concession was originally granted to Dragonara Gaming Limited in 2010, for a ten-year lease. The lease agreement included the Dragonara building, which houses one of Malta’s oldest casino gambling facilities, and the land immediately surrounding the building.
Malta’s Economy Minister Chris Cardona has recently taken to the House a motion that asked for a 64-year extension of the casino concession, the remaining period of the lease Casma Ltd. has on the land. The proposed extension was approved by both sides of the House without Minister Cardona’s motion first being presented in the Cabinet.
The Malta Development Corporation leased the land on which the casino is located to Casma in 1990.
Casma awarded the 10-year lease to Dragonara Gaming after a competitive tender process. Under the terms of the concession, Dragonara Gaming was required to invest at least €17 million in the property. According to Minister Cardona’s motion, Dragonara Gaming more than fulfilled the investment requirement, which earned it the massive 64-year extension which Maltese lawmakers approved unanimously this past Tuesday.
Concession Extension to Save Dragonara Gaming Some Money
Among other benefits, the recently extended concession will also save Dragonara Gaming millions of euro. The company currently pays annual rent of €1.2 million under its original ten-year lease agreement.
Under the renewed agreement, the company will only pay €500,000 a year for the first 15 years. For the remaining 50 years, it will pay €1 million a year, subject to a 5% increase every five years thereafter. The new lease agreement will save Dragonara Gaming at least €13.5 million.
Casma has said that Dragonara Gaming will continue making investment in the casino site, including restoration and conservation projects.
Malta Today notes in a report on the matter that there have been a number of businesses that have expressed interest in the Dragonara Casino concession and that they are now outraged that they were not given the chance to bid for it.
It is believed that such interested businesses have already been provided with a legal memorandum on why the concession, approved last week in the Parliament without preliminary cabinet discussions, breached both national and European regulations.
According to one major operator, the concession had “to go out for a public expression of interest” and that “nothing in the rules governing concessions exempts MIMCOL (Malta Investment Management Company Limited) and Casma from adhering to public procurement regulations.”
One of Malta’s oldest land-based casinos, Dragonara Casino features a number of slot machines, roulette, blackjack, and baccarat tables, and a poker room, among other gambling options. It is housed within Palazzo Dragonara, a 19th century summer residence for the Scicluna family, in St. Julian’s, Malta.
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