Sunday, January 29, 2012

Discover the Gold Coast in style with Palazzo Versace's new Audi Endless Summer package

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Palazzo Versace Hotels Accommodation Gold Coast Luxury Directory Travel Promotions Australia

QUEENSLAND, 25 JANUARY 2012 – Guests at Palazzo Versace Gold Coast are invited to cruise the Gold Coast at their leisure with the introduction of an exciting Audi accommodation package. The adventurous and stylish package combines the luxury of the haute hotel with an Italian inspired getaway in the sleek new Audi A3 Cabriolet convertible. Australia’s first and only fashion branded hotel has partnered with the Audi Centre Gold Coast to provide the stylish new Audi Endless Summer package which invites guests to tour the Gold Coast at their leisure before returning to a night of luxury at Palazzo Versace.

Available from February 1, 2012, the stylish new package includes luxe overnight accommodation with bountiful breakfast, a programmed GPS highlighting Gold Coast locations from the best surf breaks and secluded picnic locations to a selection of the award-winning hinterland wineries, an Italian-themed gourmet picnic hamper and a high-tech road trip kit allowing guests to create their own action-packed day filled with sun, discovery and beauty on the Gold Coast.

Taking to the open road in their Audi A3 Cabriolet (convertible), guests can travel beyond the famous coastline to explore the Gold Coast hinterland where the city gives way to beautiful wineries, quaint villages, sprawling National Parks and enchanting rainforest reserves that all come to life during the summer time. Alternatively guests can head south to discover the stunning coastline that winds its way through cosmopolitan Broadbeach, past the vibrant surf beaches of Burleigh and Snapper Rocks to the historic border towns of Coolangatta and Tweed Heads.

Available from February 1, Palazzo Versace’s Audi Endless Summer package includes:

Luxe overnight accommodation
Full day usage to an Audi A3 Cabriolet (convertible).
A programmed GPS system profiling ‘local knowledge’ of the best Gold Coast locations
An Italian-themed gourmet picnic hamper for two including assorted antipasti, crostini, pasta, pesce, insalata, fromagio and dolce with piccolo bottles of peach tea (family friendly hampers are also available upon request)
A sophisticated Road Trip Kit including sunscreen, beach towels and a picnic blanket
Style your own buffet breakfast at Il Barocco for two
Package rate: From $565 for two

To book Palazzo Versace’s Audi Endless Summer package call (07) 5509 8000 or visit www.palazzoversace.com.au/packages

Palazzo Versace
In 1998, Sunland Group, a publicly-listed company on the Australian Stock Exchange, together with Gianni Versace SpA had a bold vision to create the world’s first fashion-branded hotel and residence experience. In September 2000, the $300 million Palazzo Versace opened its doors on Australia’s famous Gold Coast and a new luxury address was born.

Palazzo Versace Gold Coast, the world’s first luxury designer hotel, incorporates 200 classically elegant rooms and suites, 72 neighbouring condominiums, three award-winning restaurants and a private marina, all on a historic site in Southern Queensland on the edge of the Gold Coast Broadwater.

2011 Awards:

2011 Best Luxury Hotel at the Australian Traveller Reader’s Choice Awards
2011 Ranked 7th Best Resort, Oceania Region and 2nd Best Resort, Australia at the Conde Nast Traveller (USA) Reader's Choice Awards
2011 Best Australian Hotel in Luxury Travel Magazine’s Gold List for the fourth consecutive year
2011 Best Luxury Asutralian Hotel at the World Luxury Hotel Awards

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Sunday, January 15, 2012

Aussies safe as rescuers swing into action - 15th January 2012

Rescuers have found two people alive on a cruise ship that hit rocks and keeled over off the west coast of Italy, but dozens of people remain missing.

"We have managed to speak to them but we have not reached them yet," Luca Cari, a spokesman for the fire brigade at the scene of the disaster off the island of Giglio, said today.

"There are 35 rescuers trying to reach them."

The survivors, a man and a woman, were stranded two decks below rescuers on the half-submerged ship, where a search for dozens of missing people out of more than 4200 originally on board was continuing.

Three people - two French passengers and a Peruvian crew member - have been confirmed killed, apparently after jumping into the chilly Mediterranean waters after the ship hit rocks late on Friday [local time] and began to keel over.

The passengers included 23 Australians and a New Zealander. Two Australians initially reported missing have made contact with their families.

The ABC reported the couple, Grant and Tessa Strickland, from Newcastle, were celebrating their fifth wedding anniversary aboard the ship.

Ms Strickland's mother, Robyn Watts, said her daughter and son-in-law were in good spirits and preparing to return home.

"They seem to be doing quite well," she said.

"They were lucky in that they were in their cabin when it happened - unlike a lot of passengers who were dining - so at least they had access to their coats and were able to be warm.

"And they were in one of the last few lifeboats to actually get away from the ship."

Ms Watts said the couple were expected to arrive in Sydney late tomorrow.

"They were happy to be safe. It was a fairly confused atmosphere. I think they weren't really sure what was going on," she said.

"We were able to contact DFAT for them and the consulate met them when they got to the mainland, which was really helpful.

"They've been looked after quite well. They were given accommodation and clothes and they've sorted some airfares back for them."

Cosimo Nicastro, a spokesman for the Italian coast guard, said the rescue operation to save the stranded passengers was a risky one.

"The ship is in waters that are 30 metres deep. It could slowly slip into the sea and sink completely," he said.

"We are talking about 50 or 60 people who are still missing."

Earlier, the governor of nearby Grosseto, Giuseppe Linardi, and port officials said 41 people were still missing.

Nicastro said some survivors may not have been counted properly but said others could have been trapped in their cabins or in other areas below deck.

Rescuers said they plucked 100 people from the sea in the night between Friday and Saturday after some of the lifeboats failed to function or could not descend to the water from a ship that was listing badly.

About 60 people who had not managed to escape in lifeboats had to be rescued from the vessel itself, including one passenger with a broken leg.

Crew members familiar with the layout of the ship were helping divers negotiate their way around the Italian-built liner's 1500 cabins.

Investigators arrested the ship's captain on Saturday and would begin analysing the "black box" recovered by rescuers, which logged all of the 291-metre ship's movements as well as conversations between personnel.

The captain, Francesco Schettino, told Italian news channel TGCOM that the ship hit a rock that was not on the charts and that he had tried to save as many people as possible.

First officer Ciro Ambrosio was also arrested, local prosecutors said.

Italian media said the two faced possible charges of multiple homicide and abandoning the ship before all the passengers were rescued.

A prosecutor said the captain "approached Giglio Island in a very awkward way, hit a rock that stuck into its left side, making the ship list and take on a huge amount of water in the space of two or three minutes".

Island residents said the ship was sailing far too close to Giglio and had hit an underwater rocky reef that was well known to the local population of the picturesque hilly outcrop, which has a population of just 800 people.

Survivors from around the world - many of them with bloodshot eyes and draped in blankets - spoke of scenes "like the Titanic" on board and said they were not properly informed on the evacuation.

Some of the survivors were in evening wear as they had just been settling down to supper when the accident happened.

There were also bar and restaurant staff in crimson blazers and kitchen staff in white smocks.

"We were lucky we were so close to the shore. Thank God. Everyone was very afraid," said Jose Rodriguez, a 43-year-old barman from Honduras, who was standing in line to receive food and clothing from emergency officials.

Officials said all the survivors had been taken off the island on Saturday to nearby Porto Santo Stefano and then on to other parts of Italy or back home.

People from more than 50 countries were on board and 52 were children under six.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Casinos in Italy

For more information about casinos in Italy and around the world see Global Gaming Directory and World Casino Directory

“Bond, James Bond.” That’s the image you get of the incredible Italian Casinos. You’re just waiting for 007 to walk through the doors. Although there are very few Casinos in Italy, no other country has done more for the development of gambling than Italy. In ancient times, the Italians adopted the fortunetelling cards of the invading Saracens and first used them for gambling. Bacacart was invented in Italy, probably in the late 15th century. The lottery first appeared in 1530 and from this bingo was born – in Italy! The first casinos were opened in Venice in 1726.

Until recently, gambling was not viewed positively by Italian citizens. Certainly the “involvement” of the mafia in illegal gambling clubs caused concern. Gambling was something that most Italians avoided. Although horse racing and casinos were legal, they have not been popular like in the States. Slowly this has changed. In 2007, Italy allowed legalized online gambling and betting stations. Now, the legalized gambling age in Italy is 18. And so gambling is starting to grow in Italy.

There are just a few casinos in Italy, but most are very beautiful – especially the first three in this list:

Casino de la Vallee, Casino Municipale di Campione d’Italia, Casino Municipale di Sanremo, and Ca’ Vendramin… and so here they are:

Casino de la Vallee

The largest casino in the country, Casino de la Vallee is located just off A5, Northwest of Milan and features 95 table games and 512 slot and video poker machines. Games include 5 Card Stud, American Roulette, Blackjack, Caribbean Stud Poker, Chemin de Fer, Craps, English Roulette, French Roulette, Poker, Punto Banco and Trente Quarante.

Address

Via Italo Mus Valle d’Aosta, 1
Saint Vincent, Italy, 11027
Tel. +39 1665 221
Located just off A5, Northwest of Milan – Highway A5 Torino-Aosta, exit Saint-Vincent, Chatillon. At the end of the turn right towards the center of Saint-Vincent, and follow the signs to the Casino.
Opening times – Slots:
2.00pm – 2.00am Sun – Fri
2.000pm – 3.00am Sat
Opening times – Tables:
3.00pm – 2.00am Sun – Fri
3.00pm – 3.00 am Sat

Fast Facts
Location: 90 km from Turin in North West Italy
Nearest Airport: Turin, Caselle (TRN)
Minimum Gaming Age: 18
Entrance Fee: Free Mon to Thu; 3 Euro Fri, Sat & Sun and festive days.
ID/Passport: Required
Dress Code: Casual for the slot hall only, Smart for table games and for French games jacket is also required for men.
Gaming Currency: Euro

Games to play:

Two halls electronic games
“Slot Club” 300+ slots/video machines with progressive jackpots, 2 Royal Ascot horse racing, open daily from 14:00
“Slot Circus” 90+ slots/video machines, open daily weekdays from 15:00 weekends from 10:30 (free entrance, parking, cloakroom and breakfast)

Live table games:
Two halls
“French games” 17 French roulette (from 10 Euro), 18 Fair roulette (from 5 Euro), 9 Chemin de Fer (from 100 Euro), 3 Trente et Quarante (34/40, min. 50 Euro), 3 Poker Teresina (5-card stud poker, from 5 Euro), 3 Saint-Vincent poket (Caribbean style poker, from 10 Euro), Texas Hold’em
“American games” 28 American roulette (double zero, from 2.5 Euro), 11 Blackjack (from 10 Euro), 1 Craps (min. 10 Euro), 3 Punto Banco (from 25 Euro)

Casino Municipale di Campione d'Italia

This ulta-modern casino was opened in May 2007. This striking building has nine floors and three levels of underground parking. It was designed to provide “an exclusive experience, the perfect union between culture and fun, relaxation and sophistication, splendor and warm hospitality.”

The first casino here was opened in 1917, but closed only two years later in 1919. It did not reopen until 1933. Now the casino has become not only a powerful economic engine of the city, but also a place suitable for the culture and social events. It has hosted VIPs and intellectuals, international stars, fashion shows and concerts ranging from pop, to jazz, rock.

Campione d’Italia is an enclave located 60 km from Milan, on a strip of land situated on the shores of Lake Ceresio. Campione d’Italia has been described as a small air bubble in a glass slab, for its particular location: the small town – belonging to Lombardy- is actually set in the Swiss confederation. The casino features baccarat, blackjack, craps, Punto Banco, roulette, European roulette and Chemin de Fer. 225 gaming machines are also available. All major currencies are accepted, and the minimum age to enter is 18.

Address

Piazzale Milano 1
22060, Campione d’Italia, Italy
Tel. +41 916 40 1111
The casino is located in northern Italy, approximately 60 km from Milan, 28 km from Como, 33 km from Varese, 60 km from Lecco, and only 10 km from Lugano. By car, you would take the Motorway A9 Milan-Como-Lugano.
Opening times :11.30am – 5.00am Mon – Thur
11.30am – 6.00am Mon – Fri
10.30am – 6.00am Sat
10.30am – 5.00am Sun

Fast Facts:
Nearest Airport: Lugano Airport 5km (3.7 miles), Malpensa Airport 45km (27.7 miles), Milano Linate Airport 55km (41.3 miles), Zurich International Airport 165km (101.6 miles).
Minimum Gaming Age: 18
Registration: Required
Entrance Fee: Free
ID/Passport: Required
Dress Code: Smart/Casual
Gaming Currency: Swiss franc (CHF), Euro currency exchange facility

Games to play:
600 Jackpot Slots/Video Machines with progressive games, Touch-bet Roulette, Horse Racing, Random Bingo; Live table games: French Roulette, Fair Roulette, Blackjack, Caribbean Stud Poker, Texas Poker, Texas Hold’em Bonus Poker, Punto Banco, Chemin de Fer, Craps, Trente/Quarante (roulette min. from 5 CHF, card games min. from 10 CHF); Cardroom area: Texas Hold’em Poker, Tournaments

Remarks:
Campione d’Italia is an Italian island in Swiss territory. It is an Italian enclave 60 km from Milan. Casinò di Campione is one of the largest in Europe. It was founded in 1933. In the 75 years to 2008 the gaming activities of the Casino have increased to the point that a new, larger and more modern site was built close to the old one and renamed Nuovo Casinò di Campione.

Casino Municipale di Sanremo

The Casino of Sanremo opened January 14 1905. It’s certainly one of the most important monuments of the Belle Epoque in Sanremo. Over the years, its appeal has remained unchanged. The elegance of the interior furnishings and offers visitors a unique environment where you can spend unforgettable moments.
Everything started on Jan.12Th 1905, when, for the first time ever, the halls of the Casino’ Municipale of Sanremo (which used to be called Kursaal ), opened to the public, during a luxurious Gala night exclusively reserved to special guests. From that moment on, the Sanremo Casino started to write its own, fascinating history, full of alternate luck (especially for the players ) and big cultural, artistic, theatrical attractions which complete the activities of the house of games, making it an important cultural magnet for the Citta’dei Fiori.

The project for the Liberty-style building was edited by the Parisian architect Eugène Ferret, who had previously made a project for other casinos ( Saigon and Cannes ) and soon the white building became one of the symbols of Sanremo throughout the world.

Many celebrities, kings, actors, singers, rich tycoons went through the playing halls of the Casino… For over 100 years, its salons have seen some of the most famous people in the world. The playing house of Matuziana has always been an important cultural magnet, also thanks to the presence of a theatre which offered prestigious plays ( the De Filippo used to play there quite often ). The tradition of the theatre still carries on today, with great success.

Many have been the important cultural events through the decades, from concerts, to music competitions, ballet dancing, operas…art exhibitions ( Aligi Sassu, Salvador Dalì, Giacomo Manzù, Antonio Rubino ……..). In 1951, two of the symbols of the Citta’ dei Fiori met in the party salon of the Sanremo Casino, the Festival della Canzone Italiana ( Festival of Italian Songwriting ), which started on Jan. 29Th 1951 right under the wing of the House of games.

The notorious “Festival” that’s still going and it is the reason why Sanremo turns into the capital of the world for a week…

Not to be forgotten are the “Martedi’ Letterari”, a “remake” of the “Lunedi’ Letterari” of the 30′s ( a time when the main characters of the conferences were as prestigious as Francesco Pastonchi e Luigi Pirandello ). Every year, these events offer a wide variety of the most important writers and literary men, known internationally ( Rita Levi Montalcini, Arrigo Petacco, Vittorio Sgarbi, Magdi Allam……).

This casino features two restaurants and live entertainment. There are a total of 433 gaming machines and 38 table games. These games consist of American roulette, baccarat, blackjack, and French roulette.

Address
Corso degli Inglesi 18
18038 Sanremo Italy
Tel. +39 0184 5951
From the A10 Savona – Ventimiglia, exit at either Sanremo East or West.

Opening hours
Slot machines room: 10.00 – 02.00 (04.00 during festive periods )
European gaming room: 14.30 – 02.00 (04.00 during festive periods )
American gaming room: 14.30 – 02.00 (04.00 during festive period)

Fast Facts
Nearest Airport: Villanova d’Albenga “C. Panero Airport” 37 km; Nice “Cote d’Azur Airport” 59 km; Genoa “Cristoforo Colombo Airport” 139 km
Minimum Gaming Age: 18
Membership: Required
Entrance Fee: Free from Monday to Thursday. 7.50 from Friday to Sunday and during festive periods
ID/Passport: Required
Dress Code: Smart/Casual; Jacket and tie are required in the Private Hall, the Roof Garden, the Liberty Hall, and the theatre.
Gaming Currency: Euro

Games to play:- “Antique Hall for Parties” on the ground floor of the building, completely renovated becoming the actual Slot Machines Hall with about 470 of the latest slots/video machines with progressive games (including reel slots, video slots, video pokers, multi-games and virtual horse racing)
- “Liberty Hall” dedicated to the American games including Blackjack (min. bet 5 Euro), Hold’em Poker, Fair Roulette (min. bet 5 Euro) and 41 latest slot machines
- “Giò Ponti Hall” French Roulette, Chemin de Fer and Trente et Quarante
- “Comune Hall” completely dedicated to the French games
- “500 Hall” close to the Comune Hall, dedicated to the Roulette, Chemin de Fer and American Roulette
- “De Sanctis Hall” also known as Yellow Hall, American games: 10 Roulette tables and 8 Card tables including Blackjack, Mini Punto Banco and Texas Hold’em Poker
- “Golden Hall” or ‘Super Privé’ hall for French games only (Reserved only for high rollers who can bet 500 Euros or more per bet. To get into this elegant and refined hall a direction authorization is needed because its guests want to protect their privacy during the game. The Golden Hall can accommodate 250 people also for gala nights.)
- “Events Area” close to the Golden Hall, the Texas Hold’em Poker games and ‘Sit and Go’ tournaments take place in the Event Area during high attendance periods (New Year’s day, the Italian Song Festival, Easter and mid-August holidays)

Remarks:
The Casino of Sanremo was elegantly planned by the French architect Eugenio Ferret and on 14th January 1905 it opened for the first time to the public. The building, rich in Art Nouveau and Baroque style decorations. VIP players are offered high betting standards as well as confidential and refined playing areas.

Casino Municipale di Venezia

The very first casino was established in Venice. And the magical city built on water still preserves the oldest gaming house in the world. Opened in 1638, the Casinò di Venezia has always been a centre of international attraction. Classic games in a sumptuous environment and innovative entertainment entrusted to highly professional personnel. All in the privilege of a totally unique setting.

From the golden sand of the Lido, where at the end of the thirties the Casinò di Venezia was opened as an important part of the city’s hospitality, entertainment and culture, to the noble banks of the Grand Canal where the Casino’s city location was opened during the 1950s. “A sculpted cloud resting on water”: is how Gabriele D’Annunzio immortalized Ca’ Vendramin Calergi. A perfect example of aristocratic renaissance architecture, home to doges and the last resting-place of Richard Wagner. This is one of the most elegant palazzi overlooking Venice’s main waterway.

In 1999 the Ca’ Noghera was opened, the first American-style casino in Italy. Games, lights, sound and colour in a modern, informal dimension. Here are the two locations in Venice of the Casinò di Venezia. (Note – third location is presently closed)

Ca'Vendramin

In The Lagoon


The heart of the Casinó di Venezia beats on the Grand Canal at Ca’ Vendramin Calergi, a sophisticated arena of classic casino games, including Chemin de Fer, French Roulette, Fair Roulette, Black Jack, Trente et Quarante, Caribbean Poker and electronic games with a total of 500 gaming places. A whole floor of new Slot Machines is scheduled to open in spring 2007. And then there are the gala dinners, concerts in the garden and numerous other events and shows. A historical setting for infinite emotions.

Address
Palazzo Vendramin Calergi
Cannaregio 2040 – 30121 (Venezia)
Just a few minutes’ walk from S.Lucia station
Tel. +39 041- 5297111
Opening times – Slots:
3.00pm – 2.30am Sun – Thurs
3.00pm – 3.00am Fri – Sat
Opening times – Tables:3.30pm – 2.30am Sun – Thurs
3.30pm – 3.00 am Fri – Sat

Fast Facts
Location: Just a few minutes’ walk from S.Lucia station.
Nearest Airport: Venice, Marco Polo (VCE)
Minimum Gaming Age: 18
Membership: Optional
Entrance Fee: 5 Euro (If you are staying at a hotel in Venice ask for the free entrance coupon)
ID/Passport: Required
Dress Code: Smart, guests wear jackets (available for hire inside).
Gaming Currency: Euro

Games to play:
Jackpot Slots/Video Machines with progressive games;
Live table games: French roulette, Fair Roulette, Blackjack, Trente et Quarante, Chemin de Fer, Caribbean Poker, Tournaments

Facilities:

Restaurant, Bar, Promotions, Free shuttle from Piazzale Roma every 10 mins from 2.50 pm onwards

Remarks:

Casinò di Venezia offers you in its two locations, both with their own special character, Traditional card games in the historical palazzo Ca’ Vendramin Calergi and slot machines and American-style games in the brightly coloured setting of Ca’ Noghera. An exclusive gift awaits all clients who come and play at the Casino di Venezia on their birthday.

Ca' Noghera

On Land


In 1999, Ca’ Noghera, the first American style Casinó in Italy was opened near the Marco Polo airport. A thousand gaming places in an area of 5500 square metres of entertainment, including Fair Roulette, Black Jack, Caribbean Poker and a floor of over 400 slot machines. Ca’ Noghera also acts as a show room for other gaming houses on the lookout for the latest electronic games. Like “Pepo”, the Ferrari of Roulettes, with its unique, futuristic design and the “Wheel of Fortune”, a new, European exclusive, 9-station slot machine. And for visitors who wish to extend their evening, there is also the Theatre Arena hosting concerts, shows and catwalks.

Address
Via Paliaga 4/8 (Venezia)
Opposite Marco Polo Airport
Tel. +39 04 1269 5888
Opening times – Slots:
11.00am – 2.30am Sun – Thurs
11.00am – 3.00am Fri – Sat
Opening times – Tables:
3.30pm – 2.30am Sun – Thurs
3.30pm – 3.00 am Fri – Sat

Fast Facts
Location: Opposite Marco Polo Airport.
Nearest Airport: Venice, Marco Polo (VCE)
Minimum Gaming Age: 18
Membership: Optional
Entrance Fee: 5 Euro (If you are staying at a hotel in Venice ask for the free entrance coupon)
ID/Passport: Required
Dress Code: Casual
Gaming Currency: Euro

Games to play:
Jackpot Slots/Video Machines with progressive games;
Live table games: Fair Roulette, Blackjack, Caribbean Poker

Facilities:
Restaurant, Bar, Promotions, Free shuttle from Piazzale Roma every 10 mins from 2.50 pm onwards

Casinó del Lida

At Sea


During the summer of 1938, on the “Spiaggia dei veneziani” overlooked by the Oriental-style domes of the Hotel Excelsior and the elegant Hotel Des Bains bathing areas, the classic summer location of the Casinò di Venezia was opened.

Closed in the year 2000, for gaming enthusiasts and lovers of the exclusive hospitality offered by the Lido, the dream of the Casino reopening may, perhaps, come true …

Casino del Garda

From their website: Located in Bussolengo, Verona, just besides the Verona Village center, an elegant and comfortable atmosphere warmly welcomes you, to let you live a truly unique experience. Casino del Garda is the new age of amusement: the thrill of the challenge, the pleasure of relaxing, the warranty of playing safely.

If you like to play, the casino offers several amusement opportunities – But there’s even more. Two giant screens allow you to follow all the live sport events, while you’ll have the chance to have a look at the most important horse races in a dedicated area. Moreover, a big, cozy bar area offers you the relaxing chance of a comfortable break

At Casino del Garda you can take your chance on luck – but also spend some time together without playing. A huge betting area, two electronic multiplayer roulettes, 90 last-generation Slots.

Address
Via del Lavoro, 131
Bussolengo, (VR) Italy
Telephone +39 04 5671 7778
Opening Hours
Mon. & Tue. 10.30 am – 00.30 am
Wed. – Sat. 10.30 am – 02.00 am
Sunday 10.30 am – 01.00 am
- Entrance allowed ONLY to 18- years olds or older.
- Entrance allowed after registration and subsequent release of an entrance card; The entrance card is strictly personal: it can’t be transferred or manipulated, under pain of revocation.

Queen Bingo Hall

Seventy table games are featured within the casino’s 1,250 square foot gaming area.

Address
Via San Vitale
Bologna, Italy

For more information about casinos in Italy and around the world see Global Gaming Directory and World Casino Directory

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Crisis turns Mafia into Italy's 'No.1 bank' - 11th January 2011


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Italy Mafia News Financial News

Organised crime has tightened its grip on the Italian economy during the economic crisis, making the Mafia the country's biggest "bank" and squeezing the life out of thousands of small firms, according to a report.

Extortionate lending by criminal groups had become a "national emergency", said the report by anti-crime group SOS Impresa, released overnight.

Organised crime now generated annual turnover of about 140 billion euros ($175 billion) and profits of more than 100 billion euros, it added.

"With 65 billion euros in liquidity, the Mafia is Italy's number one bank," said a statement from the group, which was set up in Palermo a decade ago to oppose extortion rackets against small business.

Organised crime groups like the Sicilian Cosa Nostra, the Naples Camorra or the Calabrian 'Ndrangheta have long had a stranglehold on the Italian economy, generating profits equivalent to about 7 per cent of national output.

Extortionate lending had become an increasingly sophisticated and lucrative source of income, alongside drug trafficking, arms smuggling, prostitution, gambling and racketeering, the report said.

"The classic neighbourhood or street loan shark is on the way out, giving way to organised loan-sharking that is well connected with professional circles and operates with the connivance of high-level professionals," the report said.

It estimated about 200,000 businesses were tied to extortionate lenders and tens of thousands of jobs had been lost as a result.

Extortion with a clean face

Old style gangsters handing out cash in bars and pool halls had been replaced by apparently respectable bankers, lawyers or notaries, the report said.

"This is extortion with a clean face," it added. "Through their professions, they know the mechanisms of the legal credit market and they often know the financial position of their victims perfectly."

Small businesses, who have struggled to get hold of credit during the economic slowdown, may have been increasingly tempted to turn to the mafia, said the report.

Typical victims of extortionate lending were middle-aged shopkeepers and small businessmen who would struggle to find a new job and who were ready to try anything to avoid bankruptcy, it added.

"They are usually people in traditional retail sectors like food, greengrocers, clothes or shoe shops, florists or furniture shops. These are the categories which, more than any other, are paying the price of the (economic) crisis," it said.

According to a separate report this week from small business association CNA, 56 per cent of companies had seen banks tighten their lending requirements in the past three months. (Credit: Reuters)

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