Finland’s Slot Machine Association RAY has asked the government to allow it to relocate the licence granted for the now abandoned plans to open a second casino in the country close to the Vaalimaa border-crossing point in Virolahti, Eastern Finland.
The project has slowed to a halt due to problems with investment from its Russian partners.
The plan had been to tap into the millions of Russians passing through this border point each year and their desire to gamble. The blueprint was to build a casino, shopping centre and hotel close to the border crossing in collaboration with a series of partners. However the group called Vaalimaa Shopping Center (VSC), a company established by the Russian investors, including entrepreneurs Denis Kirillov and Jaroslav Gerasimov, have failed to pay the final instalment required for the pre-construction phase. They have though invested around €10m in the 25,000 sq. m. entertainment complex.
The project is believed to have suffered due to a decline in the value of the rouble and delays in wire transfers caused by economic sanctions.
Infrastructure constructor Destia has since filed a claim for €1.1m in unpaid bills against the Russian investors.
Destia completed its part of the development, namely the foundation and underground parking facilities, at the end of 2014 since when the project has been left abandoned.
Johanna Otranen, the communications manager at Destia, said: “The instalment was due to be paid last year. “We’re in talks with Vaalimaa Shopping Center over postponing the payment schedule.”
The casino would have been roughly half the size of the Helsinki casino which boasts 300 slots and 20 table games.
Whilst being forced to shelve its plans in Vaalimaa, RAY’s Board of Directors have been engaging in discussions with the Ministry of the Interior to change legislation so that the placement locations of casinos is no longer be specified in a decree. This would mean casinos could be located anywhere in Finland.
Hanna Tainio, Chairperson of the Board of Directors of RAY, said: “We believe that Finns and tourists traveling in our country are looking for interesting table games and diverse programme and restaurant services. Casinos help RAY to expand its clientele in a safe and responsible way. Casino Helsinki continues its operation, and the question of possibly adding another casino here will be reconsidered after the amendment of the decree, if it is implemented.”
RAY’s proposal means that the regional specification of the so-called eastern casino in Vaalimaa could be waived and the new casino could be established in the municipality best meeting the requirements.
Timo Kiiskinen, Business Director, said: “Interest towards more entertaining and social gambling is increasing both in Finland and internationally. We want to keep up with this development.”
RAY had previously been viewing 30 odd different sites with the Holiday Club Saimaa at Rauha in Lappeenranta, the Spa Hotel Rantasipi Imatran Valtionhotelli in Imatra, as well as the cities of Hamina, Kotka, Lappeenranta, Imatra, Kuopio, Joensuu, Kouvola, and Lahti all considered.
Profits began to rise slightly during the first four months of the year for Ray with digital games, restaurant casino games, RAY’s own arcades and Casino Helsinki all growing their profits.
Revenue rose by 0.9 per cent of €1.9 m from last year, reaching a total of €257.5m.
The revenue from slot machines located in partners’ facilities, such as shops and kiosks, remained approximately the same. Their share in the revenue of the game activities fell slightly, but still amounted to almost 75 per cent of the total, accounting for €190.8m.
Revenue at Casino Helsinki for the first four months grew by 6.5 per cent, reaching €9.5m.