Novomatic sells off stake in Casinos Austria

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Novomatic is reported to have sold off its 17 per cent holding in Casinos Austria, just weeks after the company has been accused of involvement in a corruption scandal that has rocked Austria.

Novomatic has strenuously denied any wrongdoing.

The company is selling off its stake in Casinos Austria to Czech-based lotteries operator Sazka Group. The deal will make Sazka the controlling shareholder in the casino chain that has a monopoly to operate the country’s 12 casinos. Sazka operates 25 other casinos internationally. The Austrian state is the other senior shareholder in Casinos Austria, with a 33 per cent stake.

Meanwhile, for some time reports have been coming out of Austria that the country’s economic and corruption watchdog, WKStA, is investigating a number of individuals and companies over allegations of illicit political funding, including people with links to Novomatic and Casinos Austria.

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They include Novomatic CEO Professor Johann Graf and senior politician Heinz-Christian Strache, whose anti-immigration Freedom Party formed a coalition government with the conservatives after the 2017 election.

Strache was compelled to resign last May as vice-chancellor after a scandal surrounding the offer of state contracts in exchange for cash, a sting that was taped and included mention of Novomatic, say the current reports coming out of Austria.

But all of this has been stringently denied by Novomatic chairman Harald Neumann. He said this week that the sale of the stake in Casinos Austria had been carried out in order to give the operator a clear ownership structure.

Neumann said: “It is important to enable a stable and sustainable shareholder structure that secures the company in the long-term for the future challenges of national and global markets.”

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