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Hyatt Bids for Albanian Casino License

Hyatt Regency Hotels & Tourism Hellas announced it will bid in the international tender for a license to operate a casino in the Albanian capital, Tirana, for 15 years. Hyatt is participating with 51 percent in the bidding consortium through its 60-percent subsidiary Gaming Investment Overseas SA. The remaining 49 percent belongs to the Albanian company owning the casino premises. Albania will start taking bids today for a $10 million casino license, the first of five such licenses the formerly Stalinist state hopes will help it hit the tourist jackpot.

Potential investors have one month to submit their bids for the 15-year Tirana casino license, which will cost $10 million, the finance ministry said in a statement. Licenses for casinos on the country’s Adriatic and Ionian coasts will follow, including one for Sarande, a hotspot which faces the Greek holiday island of Corfu. “We want this industry to support in a transparent way the development of the tourism industry and help fund public investments and social needs,” said Prime Minister Fatos Nano.

Mr. Nano, known in Albania as a keen blackjack fan and casino-goer, was speaking to finance officials about the government’s policies for 2005.

Gambling was banned under the hardline regime of Albania’s late dictator Enver Hoxha. After Communism fell in 1991, sports betting and scratch lotteries spread like wildfire.

Albania’s original plan was to sell the licenses for $1 million each. But MPs raised the fee ten-fold, saying the Albanian mafia would snap up a cheap $1 million license as the perfect way to launder proceeds from drug-running and white slavery.

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