Lebanon’s only casino is fending off against seemingly malicious rumors that one of its customers got affected by the coronavirus.
Casino du Liban, situated about 22km north of Beirut in Maameltein, issued a statement on Tuesday, refuting online rumors that Al Mayadeen, a local television news channel had informed a coronavirus case at the casino. The channel informed that none of its websites had published any such case.
According to the local media, the rumor started from a sole individual who used a social media platform to state that “a new Corona case has been registered at the Casino du Liban and the Lebanese Red Cross is working on transmitting the critical condition to Rafic el Hariri’s hospital.”
Casino du Liban retorted with a statement saying the person was “spreading malicious rumors by broadcasting false news impersonating Al Mayadeen.” The statement said this deed was “neither patriotic nor moral, and seeks to exploit the coronavirus to harm businesses.”
Casino du Liban can do without this controversy. Extensive anti-government protests last October, resulted in major road blocks, which chairman Roland Khoury said had “a catastrophic impact” on the casino’s operations. The casino had to close three of its gambling floors as most of its staff could not get to work.
As reported by calvinayre.com, Khoury said it was “very hard to persuade [international gamblers] to come to Lebanon under these circumstances.” Also, the casino had to cancel its planned 60th anniversary festivity, which was to include concerts by international artists and a poker tournament.
Khoury told the Daily Star last November, that the commotion had already cost the casino $12m over 20 days as daily revenue dropped by 95% from usual levels. The casino made a small profit of $6m in 2018 but Khoury cautioned that if business didn’t run like before, “we will be heading for big losses” in 2019.
Since the protests haven’t eased up, it’s uncertain what financial disasters Casino du Liban may be experiencing but the Lebanese economy in general, is in big trouble. both Moody’s and S&P Global Ratings demoted the country’s long-term foreign currency rating this weekend, while government officials are openly considering a debt restructuring.
Casino du Liban is largely owned by a company controlled by the government, which could be pressurized to privatize the casino to gain some quick cash. The casino’s gaming business is run by London Clubs International, a branch of US casino operator Caesars Entertainment. The calamity could also quicken Casino du Liban’s long-stalled plans to launch online gambling operations.
Lebanese government issued an arrest warrant for Casino du Liban’s former chairman, Hamid Kreidi, earlier this month, on charges of fraud and financial crime. Kreidi, who was substituted by Khoury in April 2017, is supposedly based in Switzerland.