The Prime Minister for Hungary, Viktor Orban (pictured), has reportedly come under fire after agreeing to extend the operating licenses for five Budapest casinos majority-owned by one of his closest friends for a further 32 years until 2056.
According to a report from G3Newswire, the Las Vegas Casino-branded venues are run by local firm Diamond Gaming Casino, which is majority owned by Hungarian construction magnate Istvan Garancsi, and had been due to have their licenses reviewed in 2024. The source detailed that this 55-year-old figure is also a vocal supporter of Orban’s ruling Fidesz political party and has seen his personal fortune treble since the provocative leader came to power eleven years ago.
The five casinos, which are the Las Vegas Casino Atrium Eurocenter, Las Vegas Casino Tropicana, Las Vegas Casino Corvin, Las Vegas Casino Atlantis and Las Vegas Casino Sofitel, are reportedly thought to generate aggregated annual revenues of around $34 million and took advantage of recent Orban-backed local gaming law amendments to easily eschew any license renewal bid obligations.
G3Newswire reported that Garancsi holds a 60% stake in Diamond Gaming Casino with the remaining interest being owned by Kristof Szalay-Bobrovniczky, who is the husband of government spokesperson Alexandra Szentkiralyi. This latter figure purportedly served a five-year term as deputy mayor of Budapest from 2014 and detailed that the license extensions will allow the properties to generate at least $10 million in additional tax revenues over the course of the next three years.
Hungary is reportedly home to eleven casinos with the Budapest facilities being joined by sole venues for the communities of Sopron, Miskolc, Debrecen, Pecs, Gyor and Nyiregyhaza. Numerous Orban critics have reportedly suggested that the five extensions in the country’s largest city are a way for the controversial leader to reward allies and shore up support before the electorate heads to the polls sometime next year.
Bruckner Gergely and Elod Fruzsina from Hungarian news outlet Telex reportedly broke the story and they declared that the matter ‘will certainly and rightly stir up a political storm’ as it will likely ‘take an important sector of the economy out of the control of the next government’. The pair moreover purportedly contended that they only learned of the extensions via ‘a reader’s letter’ before later finding confirmation on the website of the East European nation’s Gambling Supervisory Department regulator.
Reportedly read a statement from Gergely and Fruzsina…
“Diamond Gaming Casino’s concessions were won in 2015 to expire at the end of 2024 and so they fell into the category of being able to have their contracts re-examined. But a passage in the new law states that ‘a contract may be concluded with a reliable gambling operator without a public tender’, which means that operators may re-apply for a concession without going through a bidding process.”