Problematic players in the casino business
Center for Investigative Journalism SCOOP Macedonia investigated the conflicts with the law of the owners of temples of dice in Macedonia, casinos Flamingo and Princess. Tax evasion, money laundering
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Owners of casinos in Macedonia are problematic. With imported hundreds of millions of Euros to the Macedonian border with Greece, casinos remind of gambling mecca, such as Macau, Estonia or Las Vegas. But what do heads of the gambling industry hide?
Center for Investigative Journalism SCOOP Macedonia investigated the conflicts with the law of the owners of temples of dice in Macedonia, casinos Flamingo and Princess, as second part of this investigation.
The world’s largest company in gaming Novomatic Ag, based in Austria, has been involved in several scandals in countries where it operates. According to Bloomberg, “casinos in Paraguay, Peru and South Africa – countries where Novomatic operates – have been marked by the US as pipes for money laundering by criminal bosses and drug barons”.
Several scandals revolve around former key people of this company. This group does not exclude either the Austrian Johannes Hahn, European Commissioner for Enlargement and facilitator of negotiations between Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski and the opposition leader Zoran Zaev.
According to the MP in the Austrian parliament Peter Pilz, “Hahn has negotiated and bought a property in Austria in cash”.
“Johannes Hahn, as CEO of Novomatic, has negotiated and bought a building as property of the company Novomatic in cash. We have brought accusations against him. Later, previous owner of the property bought by Hahn on behalf of Novomatic confirmed that he personally negotiated with Hahn”, said Pilz in an interview for SCOOP.
He adds that “this case is money laundering and tax evasion”. Austrian media wrote about this affair from 2009 to 2014. In the Austrian authorities an official investigation into this case has been initiated.
In addition, in the Austrian media the name of Commissioner Hahn has been mentioned for plagiarism, too. Teresa Reiter, journalist in Wiener Zeitung, says that the doctoral title of Hahn has also been in the public eye.
“There was a big fuss about the validity of Hahn’s doctoral thesis. MPs accused that Hahn’s doctoral dissertation was actually plagiarism”, says Reiter.
She doubts that Hahn has connections everywhere and that he uses them when he is in trouble.
Otherwise Johannes Hahn entered Novomatic in 1997 as a member of the board of directors and later became CEO of Novomatic.
Hahn’s previous employer in 2013 bought the casino Flamingo in Gevgelija.
Sudi Ozkan, owner of Princess, has evaded 200 million Euros
Sudi Ozkan owns the Princess Casino in Gevgelija which cost around 100 million Euros. But Ozcan, according to Turkish tax authorities, only in the 90s hid 200 million Euros in Swiss banks. For this in 2008 he paid 40 million Euros to the Turkish Tax Administration.
Ozkan’s casinos in Turkey worked until 1998 when the then government banned casinos for religious reasons. He owns 34 casinos in 15 countries. Besides the casinos, Ozkan has luxury hotels. He lives on a small island in the Atlantic Ocean.
In Macedonian-scale the largest affair in gambling industry was the seizure of 300 poker machines in Kocani, the action “Detonator”. Otherwise in Macedonia there are a total of 1200 poker machines that have been given permission by the Ministry of Finance since 2009. The action “Detonator” seized 25% of the total number of poker machines in the country.
Casinos operating with losses!
According to the documents provided by SCOOP, total revenues of gambling and betting activity in 2014 were reported to be around 280 million Euros, while around 273 million Euros were reported as total costs. The total profit for all subjects of this activity was reported to be only 8.4 million Euros, while about 3 million were reported as a loss. The activity employs 4811 people who in 2014 received an average net salary in the amount of 22.535 denars.
Casino “Princess Group“ from Gevgelija did not report any profit from 2012 to 2014, while the total reported losses were about 3 million Euros. Same with the casino “Korona International” which reported profits only in 2012, in the amount of 358 thousand Euros, while last year it worked with losses amounting nearly one million Euros. Last year “K.A.K“ reported a loss of 230 thousand Euros, while there were profits only in the previous two years. In 2012 and 2013 the casino “Hit International” reported losses amounting to about 1.1 million Euros, while profit only in 2014 of nearly 82 thousand Euros. According to the reports submitted, with the greatest losses in 2013 and 2014 operated the casinos of the company “Makoten“ with a total amount of 4.7 million Euros. This company reported profits only in 2012 amounting approximately 440 thousand Euros.
Macedonia on the top by the number of casinos
According to figures SCOOP analyzed, Macedonia tops the list of European countries by the number of casinos per capita.
The results are based on the number of licensed legal entities to conduct games of chance. If the calculation is based on 16 subsidiaries and 59 poker parlors, the result is that for every 27 thousand people there is one casino.
Experts believe that such a figure is discouraging for a country where 14% of the country’s population lives below $ 1.25 a day, and about 70% live on $ 2 a day. That means that about 70% of the population has money just to feed and pay bills for electricity and water.
This gap has constantly been increasing in recent years. Recent data on the Gini coefficient is that it grew from 39 to 43, which means a bigger gap between the rich and the poor, or growth of poverty in the country.