Банкеръ Weekly



The Turkish entrepreneur and major investor in Bulgaria's gambling industry, Sudi Ozkan, opened a new casino. The roulette which is located in the Sofia Rodina hotel was turned officially at the beginning of the week. Considering the casinos and gambling halls springing up throughout the country, that piece of news should not provoke great interest. However, the opening of the casino in Rodina hotel put an end to almost three-year legal battle between the Turkish investor and the state Gambling Commission.
The conflict exploded in 2001, when the regulator issued a licence to Intco International Casino Club AD for the roulette in Rodina. Then the company was represented by the Bulgarian of Turkish origin, Mustafa Mustafov. However, in early 2004 Activ BG AD became sole proprietor of Intco. Its shareholders are Sofia Princess Hotel (95% of the capital) and Trimontium Princess Hotel (5%) which are controlled by Sudi Ozkan. The price also includes the licence for the Rodina casino.
The curious detail is that at the time the deal was signed, the casino was not operating. It was closed in February 2002. In the spring of 2004, while Sudi Ozkan's subordinates were repairing their new acquisition, the state Gambling Commission then headed by Metodiy Kirov organized them a surprising inspection. The inspectors found out that no accounting documents have been found in the non-operating casino and also that the visitor registration site is not equipped with a computer system. These requirements do exist in the Gambling Act, but they are obligatory for operating casinos. The established violations justified the commission to deprive Intco International Casino Club of the 2001 licence. After the sanction Sudi Ozkan applied in a general procedure for permission through Activ BG. However, the regulator turned him down with the argument that the applying company was owned by two companies with foreign participants (Sofia Princess Hotel and Trimontium Princess Hotel). At that time, the Gambling Act only allowed Bulgarian legal entities to operate casinos in the country. The only exception was made for foreigners who had acquired hotels with gambling halls or who committed to invest USD10MN in the Bulgarian economy.
Logically, Ozkan's lawyers appealed against the refusal in court. Curious things happened there, too. Initially, the Supreme Administration Court decided in favour of the state department. However, Ozkan asked for extraordinary review of the case (under art. 231 of the Civil Procedure Code) despite the effective decision. Following the review, the magistrates eventually decided in favour of Activ BG AD. Therefore, at the beginning of this October the Gambling Commission was forced to issue another licence for the Rodina hotel casino.

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