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Europe’s oldest casino is closed

Mon, Jan 28, 1:17pm by Staff Writer

Europe’s oldest casino in the coastal city of Como was ordered to close by the Court of Como in August 2018 due to crippling debts of more than 130 million euros.

The Campione d’Italia sits on the shores of Lake Como and is now home to hundreds of roulette, black jack, baccarat and poker tables that are without players.

The historic casino has been closed for months now, with more than 200 creditors taking their cases before the Court of Como on Monday.

The Italian enclave in Switzerland is in the midst of a disaster with recently retrenched workers in the town at a loss to describe the state of affairs in the town.

“The town is collapsing. The little bars, pizzerias and stores are in trouble,” said Fiorenzo Dorigo, a laid-off machine technician.

He is one of nearly 500 employees who haven’t received a salary since July according to The Telegraph.

Fiorenzo’s wife operates a hair and beauty salon that is also feeling the pinch.

“It is hitting all the sectors, from the distribution chain to the taxi drivers to the bakers who brought bread to the casino restaurant kitchen. Everyone gave them credit. No-one believed the casino would close from one day to the next,” Fiorenzo said.

The Court of Como appointed three bankruptcy curators to examine two possibilities for the casino last August.

One being a reopening that would allow the casino to continue to operate in an attempt to honour its debt or a final closure pending the bankruptcy procedure.

The future of the casinos 492 employees hangs by a thread. They had voted on masse only weeks before bankruptcy was announced to accept an agreement to reduce their salaries to prevent redundancies, but it was not enough to save the casino.

Casino closure leaves many out of work

The Casino of Campione is the largest employer in the municipality.

The Presidents of the Works Council Rosy Bianchi said: “it’s an incredible drama for us, our families and the whole village.”

The 2000-strong village’s livelihood has revolved around gambling since the casino first opened in 1917 as a front for gathering intelligence from foreign diplomats during the First World War.

The casino closed in 1919, but reopened in 1933 with its income covering the costs of operating the municipality.

For years the gambling revenues were good and it was just ne of a handful of controlled, legal casinos and the municipality thrived only off its revenue.

In 2007 a massive new palace was built with more than 55,000 square metres of space on nine floors, with the old casino destroyed.

Less than a year later Italy was plunged into a decade-long recession that remains.

The recession along with the strengthening Swiss franc against the euro and legalisation of slot machines and other forms of gambling have slowly eaten away at the venue’s bottom line.

According to court documents, the failed casino’s debts are now estimated to be round 73 million euros, with the list of creditors raining from the village bakery and local fire department to luxury hotel owners, Balkan financiers, online gambling companies and banks.

The Como court ordered the casino’s closure while prosecutors investigated its financial mismanagement.

Campione residents fear if the state doesn’t step in soon, their town will become a ghost town, haunted by the giant shuttered casino in its midst.

“Campione always was envied as an enclave of wealth and privilege, so now in this grave moment for so many families, instead of getting help, we’re getting insults,” the former head of the casino’s food and beverage unit and casino workers’ union leader Mirko Chirico said.

Nearly 500 laid-off workers haven’t received salaries or benefits since July.

Another 150 workers in the distribution chain in surrounding Swiss villages are also without work.

Those living in Switzerland have access to Swiss unemployment and other state help, but those in Campione city limits, which is legally Italy, have struggled to make ends meet.


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