perating profits from the company’s 14 casino venues in the Netherlands fell to 14.3 million euros in 2008, Holland Casino confirmed last week, down 83.2 % from 85.6 million euros the year previously. Annual EBITDA also fell dramatically, dropping 44 % from 144 million euros to 80.4 million euros on gross revenues that were down 7.5 % to just over 700 million euros.
Holland Casino said it saw over half a million fewer visitors at its casinos over the year, down to 6.9 million, though average spend per visit remained constant on the prior year.
The company, which has a monopoly over land-based casino gaming in Holland, attributed the weaker performance to the economic recession combined with the impact of a public smoking ban that came into force in July, as well as increased competition from foreign-based internet gambling services. “In 2008, we took hits from all angles,” CEO Dick Flink said.
Holland Casino said the smoking ban had negatively impacted results by “tens of millions of euros”, while Flink expressed concern that an increasing number of Dutch smokers were instead turning to the internet as an alternative gambling outlet. Holland Casino was itself denied an exclusive license to set up an online poker and casino gaming website when a measure proposed by justice minister Ernst Ballin was rejected by the Dutch Senate last April.
The firm said it estimated that 485,000 Dutch residents were presently customers of gambling websites based outside the country, with the national online gaming market now worth around 477 million euros per year.
The company added that changes to Holland’s gambling tax regime - which also took hold in July and effectively doubled the tax rate applied to gaming machine income while lowering table gaming taxes - also had a negative impact on results.
CEO Willem Kooijman said that Holland Casino had already embarked upon a restructuring of its operations in 2009 and would look to implement further revenue-generating and cost-saving measures in both the short- and medium-term. He also stressed the need for the company to “modernize” its offering in order to meet the demands of Dutch customers. “We cannot afford to act as if nothing has changed,” Kooijman said.