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CR62-p24&25-People:SJC-Casino Review 25/11/07 01:29 Page 1
Casinos are often cited as a useful tool in
regeneration. Owned by Sudi Özkan, the Princess
Group, which specialises in mid-size venues in
developing markets, believes that its success lies in
its commitment to the communities in which it
operates. Hugh Sorrill spoke to three key players
in the company: managing director, Elif Keskinel;
director of European operations, Demir Bükülmez;
and Enis Özkan, son of the founder.
Interview they have to do is show their ID. There
PRINCESS GROUP is something missing in this logic.”
Less observant operators would have
hen the Turkish no problem in exploiting the loopholes
government but Princess is determined to operate
banned casinos within the spirit as well as the letter of
in 1998, it sent the law.
most of the “If gambling is illegal in Turkey, there
industry is no business for Princess Casinos in
underground or Turkey,” said Bükülmez. “We wouldn’t
to the wall. even think of it. We’re not that kind of
However, Sudi gambling company - we want everything
Özkan, the president of Princess above board and everything clean.”
Group, wanted to do neither: instead He added: “We have a good name
he expanded his casino and hotel among our players: if they win, say,
empire abroad and his company is now $100,000, they know they will be paid
a surprisingly large international instantly, that we will provide security for
operator with venues as far afield as them if they want it. They know, too, that
eastern Europe, the Caribbean and our slot machines are operated fairly -
central America. they are available for spot checks by
Elif Keskinel is the managing director both regulators and manufacturers.”
of the Princess Group and a long- The spread of the company and the
standing friend of the Özkan family, markets it operates in is entirely down
having worked for them since 1995. to Sudi Özkan, who now lives in the
She said: “The first casino we opened Caribbean. “Mr Özkan chooses the
outside Turkey was in Romania, then markets,” said Keskinel. “He knows
we moved on to St Maarten, Slovenia, where to go and he’s very selective: he
Bulgaria, Belarus and Belize, building looks at the world press, goes to the
and strengthening all the way. We now exhibitions and talks to a lot of people.
also have venues in Macedonia, the And people bring a lot of projects to
Dominican Republic, Suriname and him to which he listens with very
Trinidad. We will soon be opening a attentive ears.
fifth casino with a hotel in Minsk which “The casino business is very
we are very excited about, and have competitive, of course,” she continued. The company’s latest opening in
on-going projects in Trinidad & “This means you have to get the Svilengrad in Bulgaria, near both the
Tobago, Dominican Republic, environment right or players and Greek and Turkish borders is a case in
Guatemala and Panama City.” customers will go somewhere else. point. Bulgaria is quite used to casinos -
She continued: “In every country Above all, and this is a fundamental Princess operates another three there,
where we are developing projects, we principle of the company, you need two in the capital Sofia as well as the
think about hotels and tourism first: good service. People like it and they impressive Trimontium in the attractive
most of our operations have a hotel run want more. We operate a lot of casinos city of Plovdiv - but this one is designed
by Princess staff - we don’t generally with more all the time and we know very much with the Greek market in
outsource the management.” what we are talking about! And in order mind. The town of Svilengrad itself has
There are almost 30 casinos under the to ensure that customers get the best little, frankly, to recommend it, a
Princess brand; the group operates 16 service, we look after our employees, community of about 20,000 living off
hotels around the world, plus restaurants taking on people locally where we can. agriculture and border traffic. However,
and shopping centres. It employs more They get very good benefits and they the new casino has already inspired the
than 6,000 people. work hard. When you have more than construction of two hotels in the town
While Princess chooses developing 6,000 employees, you need to act including the Metropol owned by
markets for its casino operations, it still responsibly, and they will then want to Princess. The other hotel, the
cannot work in its home market. belong. Of course, sometimes it’s Romantica, is also soon to be the
“When the authorities closed down difficult operating in so many countries, location for another small Princess
the casinos in Turkey, they exchanged where education levels differ greatly casino, when construction on an
open operations for hidden ones,” said but we try to make sure that our people extension is complete. There are already
Demir Bükülmez, director of European get the training and help they need. signs that the Nymphes casino, which
casino operations. “Now there are “This extends to the local community opened in August, is having a
probably about 150 illegal casinos in as well: we want to be a positive transformative effect with money flowing
Istanbul alone and when they are influence because we believe that a lot into the town from the largely Greek
caught, a small fine imposed on the of people can earn their bread from the clientele who come to play.
customers and that’s it. Despite a casino industry. The jobs we create Sudi Özkan inspires a great deal of
complete ban on gambling, there is still mean that people have more to spend in Managing director, loyalty not only among those who work
obviously a demand: these days local shops; we try to buy as much as Elif Keskinel for him but also from his family. Enis
Turkish people who want a better possible from local shops and suppliers with the director of Özkan, his son, said: “We all work
casino experience go to Northern so they prosper too. We want to be the European Operations, really hard on this business, but
Cyprus; there are no visa issues, all start of economic activity.” Demir Bükülmez especially my father. He has given his
24 December 2007 peoplenews
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