Malta’s oldest casino’s splashy reopening; gov’t keeps quiet on casino finances

TAGs: betuniq, Dragonara, Malta

malta-dragonara-casinoMalta’s oldest and biggest casino is preparing to commence its 53rd year of existence but local media are having a hard time getting the government to discuss the country’s casino finances.

The Dragonara Casino (pictured) opened its doors on July 15, 1964 and this July 15 will see the property celebrate its grand reopening following a €10m facelift.

Among the new amenities that visitors will encounter are a poker room, a dedicated sports lounge, a second restaurant dubbed The Marquis Terrace, new slots and a fully upgraded slate of live table game options courtesy of TCSJohnHuxley.

The Dragonara is one of four casinos operating in Malta at present. The other three are the Casino Malta at the Intercontinental Hotel in St. Julian’s and two casinos operated by Tumas Gaming Ltd: the Oracle in Buġibba and the Casino at Portomaso.

The Casino di Venezia in Vittoriosa went bankrupt and closed its doors in 2013 but the Malta Gaming Authority only got around to revoking the property’s license earlier this year. The Times of Malta recently tried to determine how many other licenses might be sitting dormant but ran into a governmental wall of silence.

The Times contacted the Ministry of Finance, seeking details on how many casino concessions had been granted to date, who received these concessions and how much the government earned from the associated fees.

One month later, the Ministry replied by saying such info was commercially sensitive and thus it couldn’t be disclosed. The Times has since filed a freedom of information request on the grounds that the casino info is both in the public interest and the government is required to provide said info upon request.

Meanwhile, Italian police have cleared the names of two Maltese suspects in their investigation of a mafia ring linked to Malta-licensed online gambling operator Betuiq.

In the fallout from last summer’s raids, David Gonzi, the son of Malta’s former prime minister, and gaming consultant Iosif Galea were named as persons of interest based on their roles as shareholders in GVM Holdings, which provided fiduciary services to Betuniq.

The two men had long protested their lack of knowledge of any wrongdoing associated with the company. On Wednesday, Malta Today reported that Italian authorities had removed both men’s names from their list of potential suspects following a lengthy investigation.


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