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50 Years of Excellence

Glyn Thomas talks to Svetlana Buckova, Director of Operations at Dragonara Casino in Malta.

Svetlana, can you provide some background to the casino? How large and what facilities does it have?

The Dragonara Casino is the foremost casino in Malta situated in a fortified 19th century palace. Built in 1870 and converted into a Casino in 1964, 50 years ago, the Casino has grown from strength to strength and is now synonymous to one of the most prestigious land based casinos in Southern Europe. The Casino is a source of unique entertainment for the avid player as well as the recreational player. The Casino has 300 slot machines providing slot players with a choice of hundreds of games as well as the full range of table games, including but not limited to American Roulette, Black Jack, Ultimate Texas Holdem and Punto Banco to mention a few. The Casino, which is situated in the most affluent location in Malta, is surrounded by a number of high-class 5 star resorts thereby providing a holistic approach for foreigners travelling to Malta all year round.

You have recently celebrated the casinos 50th anniversary in July 2014 – how were the celebrations?

The 50th anniversary celebrations culminated on the 15th July 2014 with a grand evening at the Casino and the surrounding grounds. Dignitaries and other special guests were invited to celebrate with us this milestone event. A live concert was followed by a reception for some 600 guests some of whom visiting the Casino for the first time. The atmosphere was electric and the guests enjoyed themselves to the early hours of the morning. Celebrating 50 years in the entertainment and gaming industry in Malta gives perspective to our operation and places us amongst the elite in Europe. The Dragonara Casino is a jewel in the Mediterranean and its location is quite unique.

Can you tell us more about your new entertainment complex and poker venue?

During the 50th year anniversary event, we unveiled our plans for a multi-million euro expansion and restoration programme within the Dragonara Casino complex. The first part of the project is the reconstruction of the Dragonara Point building at the Northern tip of the Dragonara Peninsula. This building which originally served as the Serving Quarters of the late noble Marquis Scicluna when the Dragonara Palace was utilised as his summer residence, later was converted into a slots area. The building is now in a state of dilapidation and cannot be utilised for commercial purposes. Our plan is to convert this building into a multi-purpose entertainment complex capable of hosting international poker events, private gaming suites, high-end deluxe accommodation for high-rollers and an entertainment venue capable of attracting top international brands. The poker venue itself will be overlooking breath taking views of both the St George’s and St. Julian’s bay and will be capable of hosting the top international poker events. Once completed it will be the most important poker venue in Southern Europe.

I understand that at the main event you revealed plans for a multi-million euro expansion and restoration programme – can you tell us more on those two issues?

That is correct. We unveiled our plans for the expansion and restoration programme. These investment plans have been very well received by the Government and we are currently discussing with the Authorities on the implementation plan. Restoring the Palace and its surrounding grounds to their original grandeur is a top-priority for us. We take pride in being able to operate within one of the most important buildings in Malta, a grand romantic folly embracing a 19th century Palace at the tip one of Malta’s most prominent Peninsulas. Over the years the fortifications and some buildings within the Palace grounds have been left to ruin. Our aim is to restore them to their original splendour as we contribute tangibly to the Valletta 2018 European Capital of Culture project.

Obviously, to be in a position to undertake such an investment, we must also invest in improving our product. Our plans for poker, private gaming, deluxe accommodation and non-gaming entertainment will complete our vision for the Dragonara Complex as we aim to position this venue as one of the most vibrant locations in Southern Europe.

What do you think makes your casino so special?

We take pride in the history of the Dragonara Casino. We leverage the grandeur of the Palace to be able to provide our guests with a great night out. Our high quality of service, built on our drive for excellence is what enables us to do justice to our ambience. I have been operating in Casinos for a long number of years and I have yet to see and experience the atmosphere that is created around the Dragonara Casino. Players from all over the world visit us to enjoy this unique experience. This mix of cultures in a historic setting shrouded by the vibrant atmosphere of a casino complex makes the Dragonara Casino a place to visit, at least once in your life.

What is the general breakdown of equipment in the casino? Do locals prefer table or slot action?

We have a very nice range of the games offered; classic table’s games such as American Roulette, Punto Banco, Black Jack, different kinds of poker – Caribbean Stud, Three Card Poker, Ultimate Texas Holdem as well as cash games and daily tournaments. As for slots, we are very proud to offer the latest products from world leading suppliers such as IGT, AGI, Aristocrat and Spielo.

In general, the local clientele give preference to slots.

Which slot games are hot at the moment?

Each supplier has its top performing games. The general rule is always: The simpler, the better!

Do you approach visitors differently from locals from a marketing perspective?

Malta attracts over 1.5 million tourists every year. This provides us with a relatively large volume of visitors when compared to a local population of approximately 400,000 inhabitants. We therefore approach the international market quite differently from the local market. The aim of our marketing efforts internationally is to attract new visitors to our property. This is done in conjunction with other entities that promote Malta as a holistic destination in which gaming and entertainment are essential market segments. We heavily invest in outdoor signage as any visitor can note when passing through the Malta International Airport as well as the Seaport. For our local players we concentrate more on promotions rather than above-the-line advertising. This enables us to bring players to our property on a more regular basis.

What do you have apart from gambling to keep players entertained?

Our best kept secret apart from the casino itself is the Dragonara Brasserie and the Marquis Terrace. These two properties provide our patrons with exquisite fine dining in a setting with incredible ocean views. Our Executive Chef prepares impeccable Mediterranean mouth-watering dishes. Visiting the casino and enjoying a meal in one of our properties is highly recommended.  Moreover, the property itself is a stone throw away from the Malta’s most vibrant night life location with a choice of hundreds of other restaurants, night clubs and bars.

Malta is renowned for being a top tourist destination with plenty of entertainment and sport - when you are not at work how do you relax?

Malta has a lot to offer as a destination. If you like culture Malta offers an incredible selection of historic sites dating back from 5000 B.C. Visiting multiple sites is possible since the island is small enough to enable you to travel from one place to another in a relatively short time. Malta is also synonymous to good weather, great beaches, and a vibrant party atmosphere. So weather you’re into a cultural holiday or here to party Malta offers a great destination.