Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban Extends Casino Licenses for 35 Years

Posted on: September 7, 2021, 10:06h. 

Last updated on: September 7, 2021, 01:58h.

Hungary Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s days serving as head of government of the Central European country could be numbered. Less than a year before he learns his fate during what’s expected to be closely contested parliamentary elections, Orban is taking care of his casino allies by issuing new gaming privileges.

Hungary casino Viktor Orban
Hungary Prime Minister Viktor Orban departs a European Commission meeting in Brussels, Belgium in February of 2020. Hungary’s top official recently extended licenses for five casinos by 35 years. (Image: Reuters)

The Hungarian Gaming Authority, which is under Orban’s jurisdiction, granted the country’s five casinos fresh tenders that run 35 years through 2056. The land-based commercial casino permits weren’t up for renewal, as their previous gaming rights weren’t set to expire until 2024.

The prime minister is taking proactive steps to assure his staunch supporters are made good by the government in case of his future absence. The opposition is forging a strong charge to oust Orban and his Fidesz-KDNP party from power,

Hungary’s gaming industry is small. The country’s five brick-and-mortar casinos are boutique venues. The largest gaming floor houses some 270 slot machines and less than 10 table games.

Gambling has been legal in Hungary since 1991. The act authorized as many as 12 land-based casinos, but only a handful have opened.

Corruption Concerns

Las Vegas Casino Diamond (LVC Diamond) is the sole gaming firm to receive an operating license in the 30 years since Hungary passed its gaming law.

LVC’s portfolio includes Sofitel, Corvin Sétány, Atlantis, Tropicana, and Atrium Eurocenter casinos. All five casinos are in the Hungarian capital of Budapest.

LVC is owned by Istvan Garancsi, a construction magnate close to Orban, and Kristof Szalay-Bobrovniczky, the husband of government spokeswoman Alexandra Szentkiralyi, According to Telex, a Hungarian media outlet.

Orban’s direction to the Gaming Authority to extend LVC Diamond’s operating concessions for 35 years has been criticized by some. Critics believe it’s yet another incident of graft in the nation.

Hungary ranks last among European Union member states in the Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index. According to the organization that works to stop corruption and promote transparency, 17 percent of public officials in Hungary are believed to have accepted a bribe in the previous 12 months.

Orban has been lambasted in the past for alleged corruption, a claim he’s countered is simply a misunderstanding of his efforts  to “create a new national elite.”

Prime Minister Holds Power

Hungary’s central government utilizes a parliamentary democratic republic. While the country has a president, it is the prime minister who possesses the most power and is considered the head of the government.

The task of the Prime Minister is to determine the general direction of government policy,” the Hungarian government website explains.

The prime minister is proposed by the president and voted on by members of parliament. The Fidesz-KDNP party presently sits 133 lawmakers of the 199-seat National Assembly. A simple majority support is required to elect the prime minister.

Orban is seeking a fifth four-year term. Recent polling shows that if the opposition unifies behind a single candidate, the 2022 parliamentary election to decide the next prime minister could be neck-and-neck.