30 November 2005

The Web
Business Today

Online gaming company buys Birgu casino

James Debono

Sportalnet, a Maltese registered on-line betting company will be the new owners of the Casinò di Venezia.
The Director of this company is the Italian Orlandi Fernandi from Lecce. Sportalnet is effectively owned by International Trust Ltd, a company whose shareholders include former Nationalist MP George Hyzler, Rodney Lee Berger and lawyer Simon Tortell.
Tortell is already a shareholder in the Vittoriosa Gamings Ltd which holds the concession to operate the Casinò di Venezia.
Till now the principle and only other shareholer in this company was the municipality of Venice. Despite the sale of shares, the concession will remain in the hands of Vittoriosa Gamings Ltd as the sale will only involve a transfer of shares from the Venetians to Sportalnet.
The agreement with Sportalnet was reached after advanced talks with the Israeli company Queenco broke down at the very last moment.
Sportalnet will be paying EUR 6.6 million to buy 60 per cent of the Vittoriosa Gaming Ltd in the next two years. It will be buying the remaining 40 per cent in the next ten years.
Meanwhile, the Venice local council has also reached an agreement with the Maltese group De Rohan Investments on the building of the hotel next to the casinò. The Maltese group whose director is Joseph Debono has taken up this obligation as neither Sportalnet nor Queenco were interested in building the hotel.
Debono was formely one of the directors of the Port Cottonera Ltd, a consortium of entrepreneurs who were responsible for the renovation of Scamps Palace back in 2001.
In return for taking up this obligation the municipality of Venice has committed itself to guarantee a supply of clients for the new hotel equivalent to EUR 500,000 a year for the next ten years.
Sportalnet will not only be buying the historical Scamps Palace but also the trademark ‘Casinò di Venezia’ which will be used to lure more people into betting their money on line.
The word Venice is one of the most clicked words on the internet.
According to reports in the Italian media, the use of this trademark for on-line gambling is the main attraction for the new aquirants.
Malta’s liberal laws which permit online gambling have created a budding sector which has become even more lucretive than actual physical casinos.
Online gambling is only permitted in a few European countries like Malta and the UK and is still banned in countries like Italy. This has lured a number of Italian companies to operate from Malta.


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