In northern Italy, last summer’s decision to temporarily close one of Europe’s oldest casinos has reportedly devastated its host community and left over 200 creditors out of pocket to the combined tune of approximately €73 million ($83.47 million).
According to a Sunday report from The Daily Telegraph newspaper, the Casino Di Campione has sat empty since July when it was shut down by a provincial court so that allegations of financial mismanagement could be investigated. This slow-moving inquiry has led to the almost 500 employees of the Alpine venue, located along the shores of Lake Lugano, wondering if they will ever work inside the 592,015 sq ft property again.
The newspaper reported that a 30-day deadline that was due to see the government name a special commissioner to investigate re-opening possibilities has since come and gone with no action while the around 2,000 residents of the town of Campione are being plagued by fears that the indefinite closing will lead to the collapse of their small community. These worries have even led some residents to travel as far away as Milan in order to seek psychiatric help.
Town ‘in limbo’:
Fiorenzo Dorigo, a former machine technician at the Casino Di Campione, told The Daily Telegraph that the closure of the venue has hit ‘all the sectors’ of the town ‘from the distribution chain to the taxi drivers to the bakers who brought bread to the casino restaurant kitchen.’
Dorigo to the source…
“The town is collapsing. The little bars, pizzerias and stores are all in deep trouble. Everyone gave them credit. No-one believed the casino would close from one day to the next. We are all in limbo now and the more time passes the more difficult it will become. We are in a race against time.”
Creditors going to court:
It was further reported that the list of those owed money by Casino Di Campione moreover includes multiple banks, millionaire financiers and online gambling firms and that some of these have since lodged a court action seeking recompense. The outcome of this legal effort remains uncertain while some residents have even pinned their hopes on federal officials finally accepting an offer from neighboring Switzerland to absorb the tiny Campione D’Italia enclave in which the casino sits.
The casino opened in 1917 as a way for Italian spies to gather intelligence from visiting diplomats during the First World War. It was closed in 1919 before being re-opened some 14 years later utilizing a decree that required it to pay for the running of the local municipality.
Furthermore, the area subsequently prospered as it became a haven for some of the world’s richest gamblers. But, the financial crash of 2007 followed by Italy’s decision to legalize slot machines and the strengthening of the Swiss franc against the Euro eventually took their toll on the Casino Di Campione’s bottom line.
Mirko Chirico, former head of the casino’s food and beverage unit, reportedly told the newspaper that Campione was previously ‘envied as an enclave of wealth and privilege’ with revenues from the casino having paid the salaries for approximately 100 municipal workers.
According to Chirico…
“Everybody made mistakes; the politicians, the management, the municipality. But the paradox is that in the factory of errors, the only ones who are paying the price are not the guilty ones but the workers.”