Losing Bidders Cry Foul in Andorra Casino Tender

Posted on: August 16, 2018, 05:30h. 

Last updated on: August 16, 2018, 04:56h.

Andorra, the tiny country in the Pyrenees Mountains between France and Spain, is prepared to have its first ever casino, but the project has become mired in controversy before a single stone has been laid.

Andorra casino
Francesc Amengol is the freelance gaming engineer reluctantly at the center of the Andorra casino dispute. He says he had nothing whatsoever to do with the selection process and is taking legal advice. (Image: Altaveu)

A group of disgruntled operators are wondering just how they could all have lost the tender to a little-known local bingo hall operator called Jocs SA. Among the rejected bidders were the Malaysian casino giant Genting, the two French market leaders, Partouche and Barriere, and the Austrian monopoly Casinos Austria.

Genting might have a right to feel especially aggrieved since it offered to invest ten times the amount Jocs SA has promised.

Rather than choosing the Malaysian company’s $164.6 million, 20-story casino proposal, Andorra’s gaming regulator, Consell Regulador Andorrà del Joc (CRAJ), opted to go with the local company’s modest $17.5 million, six-story facility in the capital city Andorra la Vella.

Accusations Fly

Genting was ostensibly rejected because CRAJ said it wasn’t clear whether the company had secured the land on which its proposal was to be built, but the jilted casino operators believe something fishy is afoot and are suing to the have the process started over.

They also want answers from the Andorran government. For example, why did the consultancy company that advised CRAJ during the bidding process, Slovenia-based SIQ, give Jocs full marks for having ten years’ experience managing casinos when it has never run anything more than a handful of bingo parlors?

But when the group of operators pointed the finger at an Francesc Armengol, an engineer specializing in gambling who worked as a freelancer for SIQ, the squabble escalated.

The group discovered that Armengol had also been a consultant for Austrian gaming giant the Novomatic Group, which has a deal in place with Joc SA to provide gaming machines for the new casino.

Engineer Threatens to Sue Rejected Casinos

The plot thickens, but a furious Armengol insists that the jilted casinos have jumped to the wrong conclusion. He told local media this week he had worked as a consultant, always freelance, with many gambling companies, usually international operators seeking to enter the Spanish market.

He added that he had nothing to do with the selection process in Andorra and was not even aware that SIQ was advising CRAJ. He hadn’t worked for Novomatic since 2014 and he had documentation to prove it.

Armengol said he is currently consulting his lawyers about the possibility of taking legal action against the group of casinos for spreading “totally false” rumors.

Meanwhile, Jocs SA is plowing on regardless. It hopes to begin work on the casino project early next month for estimated completion in 2020.