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Casino du Liban denies graft charges

  • The casino claims that profits have surged despite the gloomy economic picture. (The Daily Star/Mohammad Azakir)

BEIRUT: Casino du Liban denied Wednesday some media reports that Lebanon’s only gambling center is plagued with corruption, political favoritism and embezzlement.

In a statement issued to the press, Casino du Liban’s management refuted allegations that the livelihoods of many employees are under threat and the company is only offering full time jobs to those who are affiliated with the administration.

Many newspapers claimed that the casino’s management had failed to run the gambling center in an ethical manner. The casino said it has recorded impressive results over the past two years despite the difficult economic and political conditions in Lebanon.

According to the statement, Casino du Liban’s profits in 2012 are projected to reach $30 million.

It added that the results were considered relatively well in light of the deteriorating economic conditions in the country.

“The casino’s profits in 2008 reached $28 million although that year had seen considerable GDP growth,” the statement added.

It said that the profits of the casino jumped after the new administration took the helm three years ago.

The casino stressed that it transferred to the treasury $141 million in 2010 and 2011 in taxes and cut off the government’s share in the casino.

Less than 50 percent of Casino du Liban is owned by the state-owned Intra Investment company.

The Finance Ministry and the Central Bank control 48 percent of Intra Investment while the remainder is divided among shareholders from Lebanon and the Gulf.

According to a 30-year contract with the casino, 30 percent of gross revenues go to the Finance Ministry. But the previous casino administration stressed that the 30 percent only applies to roulette tables, blackjack and other table games.

Some newspapers claimed that Casino du Liban’s current management is resorting to an old time gambling strategy designed to attract more middle and low-income individuals, specifically by purchasing slot machines aptly dubbed “the drains.”

But the Casino insists that all these reports are baseless and unfounded.

It added that all of the 1,551 employees at the casino enjoy full benefits, adding that the average cost of salaries for all the staff is $80 million and this include benefits.

The statement added that thanks to the improved performance of the casino over the past two years, the shares of the company are now worth $580 from $360 four years ago, an increase of 61 percent.

But the casino’s shares are only traded over the counter and this means that these stocks are not officially listed on Beirut Stock Exchange.

But many contractual employees at the casino staged a sit-in a week ago demanding that the management to employ them on full time basis.

The contract workers added that Ablela, a company which has a contract with the gambling center to operate the gaming centers, is netting $10 million a year from Casino du Liban.

The part-timers also argue that the casino can save up to $4 million a year if contractual workers were offered full time jobs and revoked the contract with Ablela.

The casino has not invited the company’s shareholders for a general assembly meeting for five years.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on November 15, 2012, on page 5.
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