Dragonara Casino could be replaced with a new operation after the government decided not to renew its 10-year concession and instead launched a new call for proposals.
The government's privatization unit announced on Wednesday that it was accepting offers from parties interested in running an 11 million euro casino in one of the island's designated tourist areas.
Malta currently has four licensed casinos – Dragonara Casino, Portomaso Casino, Casino Malta and Oracle Casino.
However, the announcement of a new concession does not mean that Malta will get a fifth casino.
Times of Malta is informed that Dragonara Casino's active concession in the historic Dragonara Palace in St. Julians will expire at the end of this year.
Malta has four casinos today and will have four more when this new concession is awarded
Government sources told the Times of Malta that instead of extending the Dragonara concession, it had decided to launch a new call for proposals.
"Malta has four casinos today and will have four casinos when this new concession is awarded," said a senior source.
It is not clear whether Dragonara Gaming Limited, the company that operates the casino, will apply for the new concession and compete with other bidders. Times of Malta emailed the casino for comment.
Operation of Dragonara Casino hit the headlines two years ago when the decade-long lease on the prime Paceville properties where the casino is located was extended for an additional 64 years.
Then Economy Minister Chris Cardona tabled a motion in parliament for Dragonara Gaming Limited to extend the lease by 64 years to 2083. It was approved by the House in 2019.
At the time, the Times of Malta reported that the government sought legal advice after fearing that the controversial agreement could suspend Malta legal action from Brussels over possible competition law violations.
Rival casino owners had also voiced their shock over the decision to extend the lease on the state-owned land, asking if it was in breach of EU state aid rules.
The call for proposals for the new concession announced in this week's government gazette includes a price of EUR 11 million to be paid in three equal payments over three years.
The casino application must contain a minimum of 225 gaming machines and 15 gaming tables and they can choose to have their operations on a list of tourist areas identified by the Malta Tourism Authority.
However, the project cannot be in Gozo or Comino.
The offers must be submitted by hand to the privatization unit by April 7, 2021 at the latest.
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