Updated | GWU boss says casino operator can absorb Venezia employees

Breach of conditions due to heavy accrued financial losses leads LGA to suspend Casinò di Venezia licence, GWU says new casino operator would be able to absorb redundancies.

The Casino di Venezia in Vittoriosa
The Casino di Venezia in Vittoriosa

General Workers' Union secretary general Tony Zarb said the union is aware of a player that is interested in operating a casino in Malta and that would be able to absorb the beleaguered Casinò di Venezia's full complement of workers.

Zarb made this announcement during a meeting between the GWU and parliamentary secretary for competitiveness Edward Zammit Lewis on Wednesday afternoon.

"We do know of someone who is interested and ready to come forward. Obviously now discussions with government must start as it is the government that must issue the relevant licences. The bidder is willing to not only take on the casino, but also all of its existing workers."

He clarified that the company was a local one, and that the GWU will be informing the government of the bidder so discussions regarding the casino's future may begin.

Zarb however emphasised that this was far from a done deal, as discussions between the interested bidder and the government still had to take place.

He however urged for talks to begin as soon as possible. "We are ready to say who this bidder is, so that the issue is resolved as quickly as possible."

Zarb saiod the GWU was unhappy at the way the Lotteries and Gaming Authority had handled the issue. "According to the law, there should have been a collective redundancy, which should have been issued earlier. In our opinion, the LGA rushed to conclusions. It should have given an opportunity for a new bidder to come forward to take over the casino. Only then should have things proceeded," Zarb said.

He urged for all stakeholders involved to work together to resolve the situation as quickly as possible in the interests of the workers involved.

On his part, Zammit Lewis said that he has been following the issue "closely" since he was appointed as parliamentary secretary. "The situation goes back to roughly the end of 2011. In my opinion, instead of the issue being addressed, it was allowed to drag on."

Zammit Lewis said he would explore all options related to third parties taking on the casino's obligations, and that the government would safeguard the rights of the workers involved.

Heavy financial losses being registered since 2011 have led the gaming and lotteries authority to suspend Casinò di Venezia licence.

LGA seals have been placed on the tables at the Italian-owned Vittoriosa casino, after financial losses reportedly led to the authorities stepping in and suspending the operating licence, practically halting the employment of some 67 employees.

According to Zammit Lewis, government has been engaged for the past two weeks in negotiations with the casino owners and the GWU in a bid to save the jobs at the casino.

Last November, MaltaToday had revealed that Far East Entertainment Group plc was angling for a 40% stake in Birgu's Casinò di Venezia way back in February 2012. Negotiations for the 40% stake in the casino saw FEE liaison Rita Schembri discuss with Maltese lawyers acting on behalf of FEE Group, the investment proposal with Vittoriosa Gaming Ltd's chief executive Fernando Orlandi.

All well and good,prima facis. But we need be careful not to create another private monopoly in this area of business. Government would be better advised to call out for expressions of interest and/or tenders, rather than rush headlong into something which might ultimately not be in the best interests of the nation.
Alex Grech
a casino without a 5 star hotel is destined to loose money!
Let's hope that this deal will materialise not only for the benefit of the workers employed in the Casino who are in danger of loosing thsir jobs, but also for the benefit of the local interested bidder and wishing him the best of luck. These sentiments goes also to all the workers employed by the Companies of the Nationalist Party,because they are facing a hard time too. Good Luck to you all,and hope that a favourable solution will be reached to solve these problems for these poor workers because they all have a family to maintain.