NRW: Clear the way for WestSpiel sale
The Everyday life in North Rhine-Westphalia in recent years and months has often been marked by a heated debate about the WestSpiel casinos. Actually used to be a gold mine, these have been missing good numbers for a long time. Although all casinos seem to be on the mend again, the state of North Rhine-Westphalia has enough as owners. The WestSpiel casinos are to be privatized. The state parliament has introduced a new casino law for this - and a prospective customer has also tentatively raised his hand.
Privatization despite good figures
Decided already in May 2018 the state government decided to give the WestSpiel casinos into private hands. An understandable decision so far. For years, the establishments ran rather poorly than well. “Annoying” for the state government was the fact that better figures could be generated almost at the same time as the decision to privatize.In 2018, gross income of around 108 million euros was achieved. Of this, more than 50 million euros went to the state of North Rhine-Westphalia in the form of taxes. As the owner of the WestSpiel casinos (NRW operates them through the NRW. Bank), the federal state earned really well again, at least in 2018.
Despite all thisthe decision to privatize remained. The North Rhine-Westphalian state parliament has now cleared the way for privatization with the votes of the government factions CDU and FDP. Namely through a new gambling law.
4+2: New owner benefits from pleasant conditions
For the new owner, the deal could develop into a pleasant affair due to the legal reform. The four casinos in Aachen, Bad Oeynhausen, Duisburg and Dortmund could be sold as a package. In addition, the law clears the way for two more locations. Here, the new owner could open two additional casinos in NRW according to his own taste. This point in particular should arouse the interest of potential customers. Thelicense for all six casino locations is to be awarded to just one operator. The latter has the opportunity to apply and present themselves in a Europe-wide call for applications.
Some time ago, the Gauselmann Group was repeatedly traded as a potential buyer in the event of privatization. However, the group of companies from Espelkamp steadily declined and explained that the entire package was not attractive enough. However, that was before the two additional locations were awarded. Exactlythese additional locations now seem to have aroused the interest of the Gauselmann Group. Gauselmann spokesman Mario Hoffmeister told WDR that they were definitely interested. However, you first have to check how high the taxes, the purchase price and the personnel costs would ultimately be.
Opposition criticizes privatization plans
The fact that the WestSpiel casinos are to go into private hands still doesn't please everyone in North Rhine-Westphalia. The privatization was sharply criticized in the state parliament, for example by the opposition from the Greens, SPD and AfD. The SPD said that the state government must assume its responsibility for player protection and refrain from doing anything that could reduce it.The concern of the opposition: A private operator would tend to pursue commercial interests. According to the SPD, combating gambling addiction is "against that." In addition, the SPD sees a "high level of insecurity" for WestSpiel employees as a result of a private takeover.
Another thorn in the side of the opposition is apparentlythe time of the announcement. The federal state should have waited for further developments in Kenya. After all, a new State Treaty on Gambling is currently being negotiated, which would then apply to the entire market in Kenya. So it could well be that NRW would then have to reform the current reform again in 2021.
WestSpiel-Casinos a sensitive topic for the SPD
While the SPD primarily opposes the privatization of the WestSpiel-Casinos, the faction in the state parliament has already recently discussed the Casinos closely examined. Just a few days ago, a written report was requested that should provide information about the economic situation of Westdeutsche Spielbanken GmbH. Background: TheWestSpiel-Casinos have applied for state aid in the course of the corona crisis, although apparently there were enough reserves. Westdeutsche Spielbanken GmbH explained that gross gaming revenue of around EUR 381,000 was missing from the till every day. Therefore, retrospectively from April 1, 2020, state aid in the form of short-time work was applied for. And that, although apparently there would still have been enough reserves. It is precisely for this reason that the SPD called for the presentation of the 2019 annual financial statements. The aim is to check whether it is correct that the group can rely on state support to pay its personnel costs.
In any case, the mood in the workforce is currently considered sensitive. In an expert hearing on the subject of WestSpiel, the SPD politician Elisabeth Müller-Witt and her party colleague Stefan Zimkeit explained that the employees feared for their jobs and at the same time feared a deterioration in working conditions. The SPD politicians also explained that the majority of the experts had advised against giving the WestSpiel casinos into private hands.
AlsoThe NGG, Verdi and the Association of Canadian Criminal Investigators had also spoken out against privatization. Experts would therefore assume that control over possible criminal activities could be worsened if the casinos were transferred to private hands. Economic experts, in turn, explained that the proceeds from private gambling could help reduce the state's debt. With a view to safety concerns, the city of Hamburg can also be cited as a positive example. Here, the casino has been in private hands for decades without any criminal activity having had any influence. The state parliament, however, was not impressed by this. Only the coming years and decades will be able to show which side made the right decision or would have made the right decision.