Andorra Government Denies Influence Peddling in Casino Tender Process After Genting and Partouche File Criminal Complaint

Posted on: March 19, 2019, 06:36h. 

Last updated on: March 19, 2019, 06:36h.

The Andorran government has denied accusations of corruption in response to a criminal complaint filed last week by operators Genting and Partouche, losing bidders in last year’s casino tender.

Genting and Partouche have accused Víctor Tàpies (pictured) of improprieties during the casino selection process, an accusation denied by both the Andorran government and Jocs SA this week. (Image: TTH Gaming)

The casino giants are furious that their bids lost out to a little known domestic bingo hall operator called Jocs SA, and have cried foul. Despite Genting’s pledge to invest ten times more than Jocs in the mountainous microstate sandwiched between France and Spain, the task of building its first casino in modern times was awarded to a company that had never built or operated a casino before.

Last month, the enclave’s gaming regulator, Consell Regulador Andorrà del Joc (CRAJ), rescinded the gaming concession awarded to Jocs, citing “deficiencies” in its proposal, including deviations from original architectural plans.

It also noted the company had failed to register a trademark on the Casino de los Valles, which will be the name of the casino, allowing another losing bidder, Barrière, to claim the trademark for itself.

Complaint: CRAJ Adviser Had Ties to Jocs

Amid calls to restart the tender process, Genting and Partouche launched criminal proceedings against one Víctor Tàpies, an advisor to CRAJ, which the lawsuit claims had close ties to Jocs.

The suit alleged Tàpies participated in the evaluation of the bids and conspired with officials to orchestrate an under-the-table deal in favor of Jocs.

On Monday, Andorra’s finance minister, Jordi Cinca, denied Tàpies had maintained a professional relationship with the Andorran company. He told La Vanguardia that the gaming adviser was a person of 35 years’ experience in the industry, during which time he had formed many relationships with gaming companies.

Jocs also rejected the accusations, denying Tàpies had ever worked for it in a professional capacity. The company had considered hiring him as an adviser for the project but had decided against it due to the possible perception of a conflict of interest.

Barrière Breakthrough?

Earlier this month French casino group Barrière and its local partner Lleure 3D filed a separate lawsuit against CRAJ asserting that as the second-placed bidder in the tender, the license should be awarded to them by default.

Architect on the Barrière project Borja Ferrater told local press that “provided everything went well with license,” the casino could be open by Christmas 2020. It even owns the trademark.

Andorra has a population of just 77,000 but welcomes more than 2.5 million tourists a year, attracted by its duty-free status and ski resorts in the Pyrenees Mountains. The government hopes that a casino will bring even more visitors to the tiny enclave.