One of Europe’s oldest and largest casinos is fighting for its life as prosecutors try to force it into bankruptcy amid allegations of corruption.
Casino di Campione was established 101 years ago on the shores of Lake Lugano and is owned by the roughly 2k souls who call the municipality of Campione d’Italia home. The casino has been a money-loser for years, and prosecutors in the province of Como levelled allegations of financial impropriety against its operators last week.
The casino reported a CHF8m (US $8.3m) loss in 2012, and losses have accelerated ever since, resulting in a 2016 balance sheet that showed assets of CHF21m and liabilities of over CHF65m, including bank debt of CHF39m.
Prosecutors concluded that the casino appeared incapable of generating profits, “nor to achieve its social purpose, the budget balance of the city.” By law, the casino must transfer a fixed sum each year to the municipality, an Italian enclave within the Swiss canton of Ticino.
The municipality’s mayor, Roberto Salmoiraghi, is attempting to stave off the forced bankruptcy by proposing to cut municipal staff salaries by 20%. A shareholders meeting was scheduled for Wednesday to discuss the austerity proposal.
The casino employs roughly 500 individuals, but their devotion to their jobs has occasionally been called into questions. For instance, last year each employee took an average 16 sick days.
The original casino was built in 1917 but was replaced in 2007 by a new nine-floor property boasting 56 gaming tables and 500 slot machines. The casino planned to add a separate gaming facility called Dragon Casino, aimed purely at Chinese gamblers and operated by Austria’s Novomatic Group. This new venue was to open in January 2019, but it’s unclear what effect the bankruptcy petition might have on this plan.
A court hearing on the involuntary bankruptcy petition filed by prosecutors is scheduled for March 12. In the meantime, the casino managers are desperately assuring customers that it’s business as usual on the gaming floor. For now, at least.