Dutch state to sell casinos, legalise online gambling

AMSTERDAM Wed Nov 28, 2012 9:34am EST

AMSTERDAM Nov 28 (Reuters) - The Netherlands plans to sell its state-owned casino monopoly and legalise online gambling to open up competition.

The new government, sworn in earlier this month, promised in its coalition agreement to sell Holland Casino and said that online betting and gambling will be legalised.

"It is unclear at this stage if it will be a sale or an initial public offering. The government hasn't decided how the sale will take place," Justin Franssen, a lawyer at VMW Taxand who specialises in the gaming sector, told Reuters.

Holland Casino has 14 venues in the country's larger cities and tourist spots, including Amsterdam and Rotterdam, although they lack the glamour and glitz of Las Vegas or Macau.

They attract about a million visitors a year and earn a modest profit of 3.8 million euros ($4.9 million) from more than half a billion euros in revenues.

Last year, the Netherlands as a whole attracted more than 11 million visitors. The largest Dutch city Amsterdam, famous for its canals, cannabis-selling coffee shops and world-class museums, welcomes more than five million visitors a year.

Visits to Holland Casino's 14 different venues are on a par with those who go to see the house where Anne Frank wrote about hiding out from the Nazis during World War Two, but well behind the kind of footfall that the Van Gogh Museum enjoys.

Franssen said he expects local arcade operators, British and U.S. companies to be interested in the sale, but declined to estimate the value of the casino business.

In the face of a weak economy and lower consumer spending, Holland Casino said this week it would cut about 10 percent of its workforce over the next two years to save 50 million euros a year in costs.

($1 = 0.7733 euros) (Reporting by Sara Webb, editing by Paul Casciato)

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