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18th June 2012 Andorra Casino
The proposed Casino (wherever and if they decide to build it) will not be open to Andorran residents similar to models in Monaco, Macau and Singapore amongst others. Andorra intends to put a maximum limit of €15,000 that can be bought in in cash, and when that runs out its the good old hole in the wall dispenser. This corresponds to a new law on Bingo winnings where any winning in excess of €15,000 must now be declared (presumably that will apply to the Casino). Speculation is rife as to where they may place such a Casino, presumably near to the new Heliport ! For those of you that may not know the Punt de Trobada towards the Spanish border was purpose built to be a Casino before Andorra got cold feet and changed its mind some twenty years ago.
3rd July 2013. Wanna bet?
The go ahead for a casino in Andorra will be given shortly, they are looking to open in the second half of next year. The fact that they have not yet found a premises ( Another "Heliport" protest inevitable) and that they are talking about a croupier school here for training may make the start date optimistic to say the least.
24th June 2015 Heliports, Casinos and Passports
Not necessarily in that order.
“……… the new Casino is to be up and running by the end of 2016. That must be good news ( for some, for others not so good) until you read about the last proposed Casino date that was to be in operation by mid 2014, again another gem from 2012…..”
1st December 2017 - The Casino, 9 bidders, 5 Andorran
The bids are open for operating the wonderful new casino in Andorra, first planned in 1985. The law changes are underway, venues are being proposed such at the Caldea, a new 3 storey bulding, Congress building and so on. Five of the nine bids so far have Andorran participation including the Cierco brothers currently under criminal process for the failure of BPA. Well that sums things up really.
4th January 2018 - Will 2018 be the year the casino arrives?
And who is the front runner ?
Before the above is addressed I have not yet met anyone who is in favour of this and if you read newspaper comments this seems to be a widespread opinion. The project no doubt is being spurred on by vested interests. Genting Resorts is one of the front runners of the 9 projects submitted for scrutiny, by whoever, for a final decision in the first half of 2018. Five of the proposals including Genting have Andorran participation from various interests including the Cierco brothers of BPA fame (say no more here !!).
Genting is proposing to invest 105 million euros in a 20 storey building next to the Caldea with 4 floors or 6,000 square metres of casino space, and 1,500 square metres of outlets, shops and wellness. Other groups have also submitted various locations. If previous reports are to be confirmed free entrance will be restricted to non-residents similar to Singapore where a resident must pay a (substantial) entrance fee. Genting hopes to attract high rollers from Asia and globally, just what Andorra needs. Perhaps they will whisk them in in extreme comfort via luxury helicopter to the new helipad or simply close roads and allow a dedicated border lane to fleets of limousines. It's also going to be interesting for cash in and out. It is difficult enough in the current climate to even make a simple transfer to the UK, what happens when one of these high rollers arrives with a suitcase full of Vietnamese Dong?
More to the point what happens if anyone actually manages to win, the Spanish fiscal police will be rubbing their hands with glee? Oh well let's see what happens we have no say it seems.
23rd November 2020. Building work has started today for a June 2022 completion.
Unfortunately the casino will happen, albeit run by some local Andorrans as opposed to an existing Casino management company which were supposed to be front runner favourites as discussed above Lets hope they don't drill into a gas mains or something (I know they don't exist here, but you never know!).
January 2022 Lets go to UNNIC !?
It has been some time since the casino made these headlines, the last one above I see (and forgot) was a provisional June 2022 grand opening. Anyone passing the building site will probably realise that this is going to be late, and if you read aboe the whole project of a casino in Andorra is about 37 years late since the old Punt de Trobada was built for that very purpose according to some cave paintings. So the excitement is mounting for UNNIC, a really exciting and innovative name that would surely win advertising oscar awards. Other than being the logo of an Argentine kitchen tap and accessories company seems to have no meaning at all other than being close in pronounciation to EUNUCH, which may be appropriate for those who lose and arm and a leg and the other one in these places of enjoyment. 250,000 people per year are projected to file through the Unnic experience. Unnic, dosnic, tresnic, andso on nic.....
March 2023, the casino is now a reality.
I first started a sporadic coverage of the stop / start casino plans back in 2012. If you read through the history of it (Scroll up) it first started as an idea at the old Punt De Trobada in the early 1980's, the old shopping centre down on the border at Sant Julia, now called Epizel. In the bidding for the contract we had some of the world giants of casinos including Wynns and Sands from Las Vegas, the Genting Highlands casino resorts which run most of Asia, but which were pipped to the post by a bunch of local businessmen, and there was no surprise there. The casino opened two nights ago, it has a capacity at any one time of 1500 people most likely this capacity was reached on its first two nights open presumably with the novelty factor. Also the requirement for restrictions for Andorran residents and any entry fee has been quietly dropped, probably a good move since out of season there isn't really anybody here. The whole idea of a casino in Andorra has not been well received by the Andorran population which just regarded as another moneymaking scheme for the locally rich and famous. I suppose it could be loosely described as a mechanism of the transfer of wealth from the greedy and unintelligent to the greedy and intelligent. Bona Sort !!!
Incidentally, you can gamble in the casino by not even going by subscribing to shares at EUR1000 each. 10% of the company under the law which set up the casino are obliged to be offered to the public. Apparently these can be applied for through the bank, but as of yet there is absolutely no sign of any prospectus. Bona Sort again !!!
March 23rd 2023 UNNIC… What is going on?
Over the years I have been making some quite tongue in cheek cynical jabs at the Casino as can be seen above. Now that it is up and running some people out there are starting to smell a rat, and with what would be Andorra`s first IPO (Initial public offering of shares) we eagerly await the prosectus as all, right now, is not as it seems.
By courtesy of an investigative journalist in “LaValira” he has uncovered some quite serious misgivings concerning the original approval and current structure of the new casino. In 2017 the newly formed gaming authority in Andorra CRAJ announced that JOC SA’s bid had beaten major worldwide casino operators (see above, in 2018) to operate and manage UNNIC, the new casino. This was on the persuasive basis that the partner, a world leader in casinos and gaming equipment, would be the Austrian based company NOVOMATIC.
However, by virtue of a reported 25% share purchase from JOC SA, a far less known Spanish company GRUPO ORENES based in Murcia who runs that casino there and some small other ones, is now both a major shareholder and also the management company of UNNIC which seems to have effectively happened by the back door. Worryingly, GRUPO ORENES had reportedly in 2021 an operating loss of EUR9.2 million and other short and long-term debts amounting to EUR229 million. Since 100% of the original shares of Joc SA were held by the founding investors, then clearly the transfer of those shares to GRUPO ORENES must have been authorised by those shareholders.
The Andorran gaming law of 2014 establishes that variations in the shareholding of the winning company of the casino must be communicated and approved by the CRAJ. In case of non-compliance, it is considered a "very serious" offence that may lead to the revocation of the license, the closure of the establishment and the disqualification of its owner. If this has been correctly approved by CRAJ, and there is no suggestion whatsoever that this has not been done, then why has this not been announced?
NOVOMATIC is a complete giant in the world of casinos and equipment, and it was stated that this relationship with JOC SA was the key to the local Andorran company “surprisingly” (or “unsurprisingly”) winning the bid for the casino above the other bids from international casino giants.
NOVOMATIC with over 2,100 employees and who were named in the bid as the partner to supply equipment such as slot machines appear to have played no such role in this provision as the slot machines have now been provided by the Spanish company ZITRO, which installs them free of charge, with profit sharing, and yes, a regular supplier of GRUPO ORENES. ZITRO is reported to have 300 employees and was founded by the Brazilian Johny Ortiz who ran the casinos over there until they became illegal in 2004 (ZITRO as the reverse spelling of Ortiz!).
With such a giant in the casino worlds cast aside in favour of a little-known Spanish company, just may be there is some breach of contract with NOVOMATIC and if so, that may constitute future legal action and costs, and if not, there is something very strange afoot indeed.
The current workforce of 700 employees (200 direct employees and 500 indirect) at UNNIC has been commented on as “bloated” for a business model where UNNIC states that 80% will be leisure and 20% will be gaming. When Macau opened its doors to international casinos the ratio very quickly became 2% leisure and 98% gaming!
With 10% of the shares of UNNIC about to go on sale to the public at EUR1000 each it should be of concern that so little is known in public and of course everything must be taken into consideration before investing. I am sure though that all will be revealed in the sales prospectus!