LUCKY NUMBER 13: NEW US$49M. CASINO OPENS IN CHILE

Chile’s newest casino opened its doors last month.

Operating under a 15-year license, Casino Sol Calama, located in the Antofagasta region, cost US$49.8 million to build and houses 392 gaming machines, 21 table games, 136 bingo positions and a restaurant and bar.

The property is scheduled in the next year to add a hotel with 117 rooms and a number of non-gaming amenities: including a convention center, meeting space, a spa and fitness facilities, more restaurants, a nightclub, a swimming pool and a bowling alley.

The new casino employs 600 people.

Of the 18 casinos authorized to open under a comprehensive plan of national regulatory reform, 13 are up and running in Antofagasta, Calama, Copiapó, Santa Cruz, Mostazal, Talca, Termas de Chillán, Talcahuano, Los Ángeles, Temuco, Valdivia, Osorno and Punta Arenas.

The five still to come will be located in Ovalle, San Antonio, Rinconada, Castro and Coyhaique

The eight new casinos in operation at the end of last year generated $25.8 million in gross gaming revenue, most of it from machine gambling, and paid $4.3 million in direct tax to regional and local governments. They brought in another $4.1 million in VAT and $2.7 million in income tax.

Monticello Grand Casino led all properties with 45.1 percent of the total win. Gran Casino de Copiapó was next at 13.2 percent and Marina del Sol third at 10.9 percent, followed by Enjoy Antofagasta (10.8 percent), Termas de Chillán (8.2 percent), Casino Gran Los Ángeles (6.8 percent), Casino de Colchagua (4.6 percent) and Gran Casino de Talca (0.4 percent).

The casinos recorded a total of 547,440 visits in 2008. Average spend per visit was about $43.

URUGUAY INVITES PRIVATE-SECTOR CASINO INVESTMENT

The government of Uruguay is proposing to modernize and expand the country’s casino industry by inviting private investment through a tender involving 29 properties operated by the government’s Casinos del Estado.

National Casino Director Fernando Nopitsch was quick to point out that implementation of such a “mixed” system involving commercial companies does not signal a move toward privatization.

“Particular parties put in the money for the casino opening with new slots, but the managers will be state officers,” he explained in a report in the country’s El Pais newspaper.

Rather the collaboration between the private and public sectors will bring in sorely needed investment which the government cannot provide, he said.

He noted that of the 2,500 existing EGMs in state-owned casinos, 1,000 are considered obsolete, while the cost or replacing even one can approach US$20,000 when taxes are figured in.

CODERE CONFIRMED AS CARRASCO WINNER

Spain’s Codere Group has been officially confirmed as the winner of a 30-year concession to operate a casino at Montevideo’s historic Carrasco Hotel.

A ruling on the hotly disputed concession was returned by the National Audit Court without comment, and Montevideo Mayor Ricardo Ehrlich  signed the approval and forwarded it to the Department Council, a procedural move that was not expected to hold up the award.

Codere garnered 79.42 points in the bidding out of a possible 100, but losing bidder Hyatt-Liberman, which scored 70.64 points, accused the municipal council of a lack of transparency in awarding the license and claimed the Codere consortium, which includes Sofitel, a division of French hospitality giant Accor, failed to measure up in terms of the city’s own criteria.

Turning the matter over to the court “was a gesture to guarantee the transparency of the process,” said Jorge Rodriguez, secretary of the municipal council. “But we were going to go to the council and then we were going to go to the court again.”

Codere, which operates Uruguay’s Maronas racetrack and several other gambling and betting venues in the country, plans to spend US$63 million over the next two years to refurbish the venerable hotel and install a casino.

GROWTH IN CHILE SPURS FORMATION OF TRADE GROUP

In a sign of increasing sophistication among Chile’s new casino industry, nine of the new properties have joined forces to form the Chilean Casino Association.

With the goal of sharing knowledge about what is essentially a new experience for everyone, the customers included, the group has identified a number of issues pertinent to fostering a “casino culture” among consumers.

One thing operators are learning is that non-gambling attractions are generating more revenues than the games. Hotels, restaurants and cinemas are major features of the new casinos.

“This is a time in which more food and drink is being sold,” said one operator. “It is cheaper to sit in a bar with a drink than to sit at a slot or at a table game, but people want to have a good time anyway.”

In this respect, association members have noted that they feel they are at a certain disadvantage compared with other leisure businesses because they must charge an entrance fee and are required to provide bingo, an added expense that generally does not bring in much revenue.

SAGSE PICKS UP KEY ENDORSEMENT

At its recent annual general meeting the Lotteries and State Casinos of Argentina (Asociación de Loterías, Quinielas y Casinos Estatales de Argentina) has voted to support the SAGSE trade show and to participate in the three-day event.

The vote is significant for SAGSE, the largest gaming trade show on the continent, because ALEA is one of the largest and most respected institutions in South American gaming.

SAGSE is held in Buenos Aires. This year’s show commences September 30 and runs through October 2 and will be staged at the Centro de Convenciones Costa Salguero.

Organizers Monografie said the 2009 show will encompass 20,000 square meters of exhibition space and is already 80 percent sold out.