Tonight I went to the casino. Brussels has only one Casino and it´s called “Viage”. Before Viage, the same group operated the Grand Casino of Brussels. I remember the Grand Casino of Brussels as a dark smokey place. It had a great feel of a depressing sad place where people would lose their hard-earned money and get pissed on cheap beer. My first visit to a casino was motivated by my late friend Sam Petrossian that was a great gambler.
On my first visit I had no idea of what to expect of a Casino. I had budgeted, if I remember well, 20 euro and managed to leave the place with 50 euro. Wow, 30 euro up! After that I went some other times to the Grand Casino of Brussels where most of the times I would lose 50 euro, win 50 euro, lose 50 euro… overall I managed to keep leveled for many months as this was just an amusement park. There was a very good time where I cashed over 800 euro playing poker – but these nights will happen only once or twice on a lifetime.
About 1 year ago, the Grand Casino of Brussels closed, moved to a huge building and was renamed Viage. What the owners planned to do was establish a new concept where they tried to go away from being only a casino and become an entertainment centre with not only gambling, but also shows, restaurants and parties. I must say that I am not a big fan of the new place. The dark ambient was abandoned – now the whole place is pink, and blue, and green. There is no more smoke and the beer is more expensive.
Tonight I did not have a good night. Invested 40 euro and lost it quite quickly. I am not very worried because some months ago I had magic night where my winnings were over 1500 euro – but I am absolutely sure this will never happen again.
The interesting thing about the Viage Casino of Brussels is that it is probably the only casino in the world that claims to be losing money. On the 25th of October 2011, there was an article in the Belgian newspaper “Le Soir” that claimed that the place was losing about 1 million euro a months and since its opening it had lost already 75 million euro. Last week there was another article in which all casinos of Belgium were nagging that they cannot manage to maintain their businesses. The owners complaint of very high taxes, expensive employment costs and the reduction of the number of gamblers due to both the economic crisis and the new anti tobacco laws that prohibit smoking in the casino.
So, as weird as it may seem, Belgian casinos are asking the government to be bailed out. Their strongest argument is that the Viage casino alone is the sole biggest tax payer of Brussels village and it employs over 1000 people directly and indirectly.
Personally I could not notice the reduction of people. Even though it was friday, the place was packed and people were fighting for a place in the roulette table. It is fun to see gamblers losing 1000 euro a spin and just not caring about. Either they have a lot of moneyor are just crazy.
The bail out is a complicated subject. It is hard to believe that such a kind of business is not making money and generating huge profits. On the other hand it seems that the closure of the Casino can be very expensive to Brussels and will affect a lot of people. In the meanwhile I will just enjoy my little gambling habit and put 5 euro on 22… and 5 on 16!
Crap… 7, I lost – as usual.