Oldest Casino in Europe Closes Its Doors

Lake Como in Italy
Europe’s oldest casino, on Lake Como in Italy, has gone bankgrupt.

30-second summary

  • The oldest casino in Europe was forced to close its doors in July
  • This came about because of more than $83m (£63m) in debt
  • More than 650 people relied on this business for their livelihood
  • There is a chance it will re-open, but there is no official date

Background of this closure

The oldest casino in Europe until its closure was on Lake Como in Italy. The doors have been closed since July 2018, but many people were hopeful that the casino would reopen in the near future. However, the creditors of Casino di Campione began legal proceedings against the casino on January 28.

More than 200 creditors are involved in this case. The casino is bankrupt and was closed by the courts in July, which will spell a lot of trouble for local businesses that rely heavily on tourist revenue to survive. More than 500 jobs will be lost as a result of this closing.

Most of the local businesses had a role in the casino’s operations. Food was locally sourced food and local taxi drivers provided transport to and from the casino for the visitors. Only 2,000 people live in the village full-time.

History of the casino

This casino opened in 1917. It was originally a source for gathering information from foreign diplomats during World War I. There was a temporary closure in 1919, but it reopened in 1933 because of a decree that is still valid.

The decree requires that the income of the casino should be used to cover the municipality’s operating costs. Ironically, the decree that was intended to protect the village could now lead to its destruction.

The casino had great success for many years. Only a couple of other casinos operated in the region and they all saw decent revenues. A large-scale renovation took place in 2007, creating a virtual palace that took up over 55,000 square feet and had nine floors.

The old casino building was torn down. However, the timing of this development was terrible. After the global recession hit Italy hard in 2008, fewer tourists visited the region and people had less disposable income to spend on gambling.

Another problem for the casino was the legalization of slot machines and online gambling all across Italy, which led to declining revenues for the Casino di Campione.

While losses continually mounted, more people were hired in the municipality and were paid from casino revenues. The debt level revealed in the recent court hearing is around $83m.

What happens next?

Among the 200 creditors are local businesses, such as the village bakery, online gambling operators, the local fire department, and banks that lent multiple millions. The casino has remained closed by court order until the prosecutors can conduct a thorough investigation into the financial mismanagement of the casino.

Locals are concerned that if the state does not step in and help in this matter, this area will soon become a ghost town. They feel that they are not getting adequate help from the authorities. The workers will pay the ultimate price.

The 500 workers have not gotten any benefits or wages since July. Another 150 people who are part of the distribution chain in nearby villages are also out of work because of the casino closure.

Those who live in Switzerland can get benefits from their government, but those in Italy are struggling to survive. For some time, Switzerland has been campaigning to have the town absorbed into their country. However, Italy has always resisted this motion.

The current coalition government is very anti-gambling, but clearly understands the importance this casino has for the region. A special commissioner will be appointed to look into the possibility of opening the casino once more. The 30-day period set for the appointment has passed without any action. Now everything is up in the air and the locals do not know what will happen next.

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