The Netherlands’ government-owned casino group, Holland Casino, was the first major operator in Europe to gear its product and marketing efforts to the average citizen. Now, the director of the concern, Dick Flink, wants to see an investment of hundreds of millions of euros to expand the entertainment aspect of the primarily casino-gaming operator.
The new concept includes an emphasis on greater variety in the food and beverage offering, the creation of dance clubs and lounges, even the introduction of live stage performances-plus the inclusion of gaming that does not necessarily involve wagering.
Holland Casino has always been willing to experiment with its product, which now totals 14 casinos around the small country. The new decision is the result of a combination of factors that have resulted in lower gaming revenue, plus a perception that casino gaming may have reached its peak in 2007, with gross gaming revenue of €750 million and net of €85 million.
Flink refuses to put all the blame for the lower results on the recession, a smoking ban and higher gaming tax.
“Before you start crying about what the big, bad world has done to you, you have to take an honest look at yourself,” Flink told the Dutch financial newspaper Financieele Dagblad. “When I came here a year ago I saw a company that had grown heavily over the past 30 years. But I also saw an organization for which growth was a given, but which did not always look at the quality or costs of that growth.”
Almost all of the 14 casinos were still profitable last year, according to Flink. Even those that were not are in no immediate danger of closing, however, because the Justice Department, which oversees the casino company, wants all residents of the country to be within a 30-minute drive of a Holland Casino property.
The original mission of the government-owned group was to counter the illegal gaming that was occurring at over 100 unregulated casinos.
The plan is meeting with resistance from the Dutch Labor party, which believes the expanded entertainment concept works against the original mission and instead could open the market to outside operators as well. The party also worries that the state company would present unfair competition to private operators in the food, beverage and entertainment industries.
As for where the money might come from to fund the projects, Flink is not expecting to have to turn to the Finance Ministry. He expects to be able to obtain funding from banks or, if necessary, from outside investors, when conditions improve six months from now.
“You don’t rebuild a casino for €20 million,” Flink said. “It will take a substantial sum, hundreds of millions of euro, and many years. We’re talking about entertainment venues that have to accommodate 400,000 to 1 million visitors per year.”