Malta’s Dragonara casino has been given a 64-year extension to its lease agreement without a competitive tender, causing controversy on the Mediterranean island.
The company behind the St Julians casino, Dragonara Gaming, co-owned by Johann Schembri and the Bianchi family, currently has a 10-year lease agreement with government-owned Casma which expires next year.
The motion of a 64-year lease extension until 2083 was tabled in Parliament by Economy Minister Chris Cardona. It was approved by Parliament and seconded by Deputy Prime Minister Chris Fearne.
Speaking to MaltaToday, one industry source said: “We cannot understand why Dragonara is being given preferential treatment over such a lucrative long-term lease without a competitive tender being issued.”
Another said: “An extension like this to a lease agreement that expires next year should be awarded after other players are given the chance to compete for it. This is a troubling decision made by the government which we believe to be in breach of EU law.”
The casino has been described as being in a ‘state of complete neglect’ despite the 2010 contract outlining that the operator invest €17m in the property which it said it has done.
Dragonara Casino Director Franco Degabriele highlighted that the ‘extension found the approval of both sides of the House of Representatives.’