Whilst chatting to my long time friend Steve Hand about old times and old friends from the Bahamas, he asked me if I wanted to write some articles for his newsletter on his web page. I found the idea interesting and I agreed to do it, so now I can’t get out of it!

My first article (long awaited!) is about Casinos in Malta, the country where I am presently working. There are four casinos in Malta – Dragonara Casino, Casino di Venetia, Oracle Casino and The Casino at Portomaso. Malta has a very efficient Gaming Board which has been set up using mostly English gaming rules.

The Dragonara Casino is one of the oldest casinos in what is now Europe being built in 1870 as a summer residence for a Maltese banker called Emanuele Scicluna. The main gaming hall once was a central courtyard containing flowerbeds and fountains around which all the interconnecting rooms were built. The name ‘Dragonara’ which means dragon’s lair, came about because it was believed that a dragon lived in the caves underneath the building built on a peninsular but apparently this was just the sound of crashing waves.

Casino di Venezia is housed in a very beautiful Venetian Renaissance Palace in Vittorioso originally built in 1481 and enlarged in 1614 with a wing called the ‘Ala Bianca’ where in 1882 the composer Richard Wagner lived until his death. During this time he wrote “Parsifal”. It was in 1959 that it became the residence of the Casino which faces the canal.

The Oracle Casino is in a very popular tourist area called St. Paul’s Bay in the north of the island and forms part of the Dolmen Resort Complex.

The Casino at Portomaso, the newest Casino, is part of the marina development of Portomaso, situated in the fashionable district of St. Julian’s, well know for its nightlife, on Malta’s north-eastern coast overlooking a magnificent yacht marina, bordered by a tree-lined promenade.

Boasting extensive underground parking facilities, the development includes the five-star deluxe Hilton Malta, luxurious apartments, a spectacular conference centre, a business tower and a range of diverse and selected bars, restaurants and shops together with a sophisticated shopping complex.

The clientele is mostly local but there are also a lot of Italian players especially from Sicily. Although most people say that four Casinos may be too many, I personally don’t agree. Only three Casinos out of the four bring Junkets but none of them do any direct marketing relying solely on junket leaders.

But now Malta is part of Europe and with multimillion Euro investments already approved by the Government for improving the roads I can see a lot of room for improvement. Lately there have been rumors that new licenses will be given for more Casinos. If this happens and an International Group decides to open in Malta I foresee problems for the existing Casinos unless their management invests in international promotion.

Malta is from 1 hour to 2.5 hours from any big city in Europe and has something for everyone. The Maltese Islands are steeped in culture and heritage with wonderful weather for most of the year, not much rain and beautiful beaches. There are a wide variety of land and sea sports facilities available on the Island including golf, tennis, squash, water sports facilities, including scuba diving – the water is very clear so diving schools abound. Add to this international resaurants and very friendly people always willing to go the extra mile to help and I think this makes an enticing package to choose Malta as the place to go to spend a weekend gambling and / or a vacation spot.

My next article will be about Kenya

Till then

Mario Ingretolli

[email protected]