The EDP company is planning to open a new casino in Holubice, only 8 km as the crow
flies from its headquarters in Komořany. The casino is going to be situated in an existing
commercial location that was originally meant for a car dealership. The casino is only
the first phase of a large-scale project. Eventually there is going to be a hotel with
a restaurant and a shopping centre located here, next to exit 210 near the D1 highway.
As a result, this previously neglected land will be effectively put to use.
At the time of opening the casino will be operating over 100 gaming machines and a corresponding number of live tables. It will also be equipped with the latest technologies, developed and produced within the Novomatic group, including a registration system in which the player identifies himself/herself via fingerprint. The casino’s location is convenient thanks to the proximity of the D1 highway. The building is currently undergoing renovation and the casino should welcome its first visitors by the second half of this year.
The municipality is working in close collaboration
Negotiating with the municipality of Holubice was the first step. Without which the investment of 100 million Czech crowns would not have been possible. Communication with the mayor and members of the council began in 2017. Tax revenue is a significant factor for the municipalities decision in this matter, which taking into consideration current tax laws and the number of expected gaming machines in the casino, should be more than ten million Czech crowns per year.
This revenue is essential for the future of the village. The number of inhabitants is increasing. There are about 900 residents in the municipality and a few hundred more live in the village. Several apartment buildings have been built and the current infrastructure is not capable of meeting the demands of future projects. It is necessary to expand the capacity of the sewage treatment plant, increase vacancies in the local kindergarten and primary school, as well as begin reconstruction and construction of sidewalks and parking spaces. All of this could be funded by tax revenue from the casino.
The casino is not located exactly in the village itself but is a few hundred meters away from the village and is physically separated by the D1 highway.
Taking this into consideration, the mayor and the majority of local councilors have agreed to approve EDP’s investment. They also agreed with an investment protection contract which states that if the municipality prevents the casino from operating, it would have to pay the investor its investment. The approval for the casino hasn’t changed even after the municipal elections in the autumn of 2018.
Opponents of the casino failed to sway the citizens
Even though the initial stages of the casino project have been underway since 2017 a public campaign started before the municipal elections. Mayors from nearby municipalities joined this campaign, warning citizens about a possible increase in crime and gambling addiction amongst the local population. This contradicts the fact that a few casinos are already working nearby. Also due to the gambling act all gambling is legally available online, offered by several big companies including Sazka.
A petition committee was established in Holubice. First they delivered anonymous flyers to the mailboxes of their neighbors, warning them about the dangers of gambling. Then they gathered signatures to petition for a local referendum. This petition was supported by the media which was influenced by the situation many years ago when casinos where operating on town squares. Unlike a number of similar municipal referendums in the Czech Republic which demanded a ban on gambling and casinos, in Holubice the organizers adopted a smarter approach. They didn’t want to ban the casino, they just wanted to ban gaming machines even though their number is significant to tax revenue of the village. The majority of casinos in the Czech Republic and worldwide offer both live tables and gaming machines.
EDP responded to these concerns by publishing an information booklet that presented both the company and the casino project. It also took part in a debate arranged by the mayor of the village. It joined a debate organized by the petition committee, where lawyers and other experts from NGOs based in Prague and Brno tried to sway local opinion. EDP unfortunately wasn’t allowed to voice its opinion as an investor. The referendum was held at the end of May, together with EU parliament elections. Two thirds of local citizens voted and 67 percent voted for a fully equipped casino with live tables and gaming machines. Therefore, the casino project is able to proceed.
The Holubice project shows that if a major reputable casino company such as EDP prepares a quality project and communicates thoroughly with local government and citizens, it is possible to deal with preconceptions and often false information, and persuade people that a top casino is a legitimate business with significant benefits for a city or community.