The idea for a Holland Casino in Nijmegen originated in the early eighties.
The management of the state casino chain (which was then still called Holland Casinos) decides in 1983 that there should be a brand new gambling palace in the east of the country. There are then only three official casinos in the Netherlands: in Scheveningen, Valkenburg and Zandvoort.
Holland Casino wants to open branches spread throughout the Netherlands, so that almost all Dutch people live within an hour's drive of a legal casino. And in Gelderland, Nijmegen has the best papers, the management believes.
But it didn't make much difference if the casino had been in a different city …
Arnhem a better city than Nijmegen?
The mayor and aldermen of Arnhem believe that the new Holland Casino should be in their city. Because Arnhem is a much better place for such a gambling palace? More central in the province and closer to Overijssel, where there is no Holland Casino.
Moreover, a casino attracts day-trippers and that is good for the hospitality industry and the local tradespeople, according to the Arnhem politicians.
Something else is going on behind the scenes: in the 1980s, the state casino pays 1.50 guilders per visiting guest into the municipal treasury. A new casino in Gelderland is expected to attract around 350,000 visitors a year. Cash desk!
The people from Arnhem are starting a big lobby to bring in the new Holland Casino. And as if that wasn't enough, the towns of Renkum and Rheden are joining forces.
De Telegraaf even speaks of a real "casino war" in January 1984:
A casino war broke out between Nijmegen and Arnhem. Both places want to drag one of the new casinos in the east of the country within the municipal boundaries. Although Nijmegen initially seemed to have the best papers, Arnhem still went to great lengths to get the casino in, including by "editing" politicians.
The Nijmegen alderman for Economic Affairs T.H.E.M. Wijte called the Arnhem action a black spot in the cooperation between the two cities. "It has been clearly agreed that when one of the places turns out to have the best papers, the other candidates (Arnhem, Renkum and Rheden) would not be bothered."
In Arnhem, the municipality says it does not feel bound by this agreement. "There is a chance that there will be no casino in Breda but in Eindhoven. And that is too close to Nijmegen. Arnhem is then a better place. "
Holland Casino is aiming for Germans
But in the same De Telegraaf – yes, Mr. Casino has just dived into his archive! – can also be read why the then casino management of the state casino is still pointing its arrows at the Imperial City:
"In the choice between Arnhem and Nijmegen, Nijmegen was preferred by the casino management because more Germans are coming there and Nijmegen is busy making its city attractive to tourists, where a casino can help considerably."
The municipality of Nijmegen wants to revive the somewhat run-down and boring Waalkade as one of the largest attractions in the region, with shops, studios, museums, cafés, restaurants, terraces, two parks and the casino as a showpiece. The renewed Waalkade is intended to attract around half a million people to the Keizer Karelstad.
Regarding German guests: Holland Casino expects that 30 percent of the 350,000 annual visitors in Nijmegen will come from Germany.
Roman remains must make way for the casino
At the end of 1984, the management of Holland Casino, together with the Minister of Economic Affairs, took a final decision on five new branches. They must successively open the doors in Rotterdam, Amsterdam, Breda, Groningen and finally also in Nijmegen.
Nijmegen will thus become the eighth branch in the history of Holland Casino.
The Nijmegen city council is happy, but immediately falls into a new snake pit. There is a big fuss about the intended location of the new gambling palace on the Waalkade.
Nijmegen was the northernmost Roman settlement in the Low Countries and is the oldest city in the Netherlands. The area on the Waal is one of the oldest inhabited places of Nijmegen.
And a Roman wall had just been discovered in the 1980s. Or yes, remains of a wall. There are also remains of a bathhouse and a number of Roman villas on the Waalkade.
De Volkskrant headlines on September 17, 1987 in thick chocolate letters:
"ARCHEOLOGISTS CALL POLICY OUTDOORS
Roman wall must give way to casino parking garage
A Roman wall along the Waalkade in Nijmegen, carefully uncovered by archaeologists in recent years, is in danger of disappearing under the sand again. If an archaeological monument is made of the wall, a casino to be built on the Waalkade cannot have its own secure parking garage. ”
Parking is a must for Holland Casino. Otherwise there will be fewer visitors. The Roman wall must therefore give way.
People climb over the fences
When the then mayor of Nijmegen, Ien Dales ((1931-1994, PvdA), the first pole of the casino crashed into the ground on Friday, November 6, 1987, there was protest.
"Campaigners attempt to disrupt the start of construction of the casino
On Thursday afternoon, campaigners in Nijmegen caused some incidents at the official start of the construction of the eighth casino in the Netherlands. The police intervened a few times to prevent a small group of people from climbing over the fences in the construction site.
The campaigners are against the construction of the casino, which they call a capitalist institution. For construction, an archaeological monument from Roman times, the so-called Roman wall, had to give way to the Waalkade in Nijmegen. Various campaigns against this and parliamentary questions were in vain. "
The newspaper article also mentions the creative solution that the architect of the gambling palace in Nijmegen has devised, in order to retain a piece of wall. A small part of the wall will soon be on display in a showcase in the parking garage of the casino.
Las Vegas on the Waalkade
The architect of the new casino is Mans Hofhuis. He draws a special design, because Holland Casino Nijmegen is the first casino in the Netherlands to be given a theme, just like the large mega-casinos on the Strip in Las Vegas.
Instead of the classic European casino style with lots of velvet and dark wood, Hofhuis – very appropriately – opts for a Roman theme. In the hall there are Roman columns, the cash registers are framed with large Roman coins and the bar has a triangular crown molding, just like a Roman temple.
It doesn't go as far as Caesars Palace, but with the new style Holland Casino wants to become more accessible and appeal to a wider audience.
In August 1989 the new casino on the Waalkade finally opened. The construction and furnishing cost 19.2 million guilders, converted to € 8.7 million.
On the occasion of the opening, a colorful procession passes through the city, including Roman chariots.
A journalist from NRC Handelsblad who comes to watch the brand new casino during the opening week, taps:
"Nervous behavior for the cash register of the new casino in Nijmegen
The architect, Mans Hofhuis, has succeeded in ingeniously incorporating the remains of the old Roman wall, which initially seemed to disappear, into his design. The management of the casino remembers ancient Rome in the gaming rooms.
The room with slot machines is named Bingo Atrium, another part is called Jackpot Empire. And Circus Maximus is the first slot machine the visitor will find after entering. Here the player can gamble on five electronically controlled toy horses. "
And according to a journalist from de Volkskrant, the red floor covering of the casino looks like "a mosaic floor from the Italian Pompeii" and the playroom looks like a "Roman palace room". Well yes!
De Waal causes problems
A journalist from the (communist) newspaper De Waarheid, Mariska Snakenborg, can also take a look during the opening week.
Mr. Casino quotes from her article of August 12, 1989, called Most people leave the house here with a loss:
“The architect of the building, Mans Hofhuis, had to deal with various problems. In his design he had to take into account the high water level that the Waal can occasionally assume. The entire Waalkade is then under water.
Hofhuis therefore created three entrances on three different levels. The entrance to the Waalkade is at the lowest level and can no longer be used at high water levels.
Right above this entrance is the second entrance, a lot higher. The third entrance is located at the rear of the building, in the upper city, at the highest level. "
Look, this is how we learn something else!
Deep pile red carpet
But let's also take a look inside, with Comrade Mariska Snakenborg:
“When entering the entrance at the lowest level, the first thing that strikes you is an enormous wide staircase. To reach the game room, this staircase has to be climbed with a long-pile red carpet. There is a receptionist at the top of the stairs. A receptionist who is the neatness and kindness itself. She receives the guests with a broad smile and points the way to the game room.
This road runs along tall windows overlooking the Waal and the Waal Bridge. The architect thought that this magnificent view should be enjoyed. He has therefore installed sloping ramps. The visitors who have checked in at the reception walk diagonally up the ramp. "
Casino for the "ordinary man"
Then Snakenborg enters the game room:
“When you arrive at the gaming room, you get the feeling that it's really going to start well. Countless gambling tables are now empty in a large room. The room is half in the dark. There is an atmosphere of luxury.
Staff members walk around in a black tuxedo with a dark red bow tie. They say hello to you politely. Three bartenders are already waiting behind the abandoned bar to take an order. The entire entourage is clearly intended to make the guest feel at ease.
The casino appears to be an ideal place for an alternative night out. For those who just don't feel like a pub or cinema. For those who want to feel rich and pampered for an evening. The management of Holland Casinos has very cleverly responded to this trend. She also noted that the "common man" visits the casino more often. "
This also includes a less strict dress code. Until the end of the eighties, male visitors to Holland Casino were required to wear a jacket and tie. That rule will be abolished at the opening of the Nijmegen branch.
Golden years for Holland Casino Nijmegen
Holland Casino Nijmegen immediately runs like a rocket. In 1990, 302,757 guests crossed the Roman threshold.
The following year the visitor target is already exceeded: 362,798 visitors, who spend an average of 120 guilders per person. The net profit amounts to almost 11 million guilders.
The nineties are golden years for Holland Casino Nijmegen. Every year the play palace on the Waal attracts more visitors and every year they leave more guilders on the gaming tables, in the vending machines and in the hospitality industry.
The branch is also doing well financially: around the turn of the century, Nijmegen accounts for 10 to 11 percent of the net profit of Holland Casino.
The big blow comes from Venlo
But the growth of the casino on the Waalkade does not appear to be eternal. In 2002 a new Holland Casino opened in Enschede and that location caught on quite a bit of customers from Nijmegen.
A renovation – with a lot of inconvenience for the guests – and a declining economy will not help either. The number of visitors dropped below half a million in 2002.
Then it goes less every year. Fewer visitors, less sales, less profit.
And then the big blow is still to come: the opening of Holland Casino Venlo in 2006. That new casino is much more favorable than the major German cities in the Ruhr area than Nijmegen. The lion's share of German gamblers therefore exchange the Waal quay for Venlo.
With the cheese slicer through the casino
The halls in Nijmegen are noticeably emptier and the roulette, blackjack and slot machines pay considerably less, now that the eastern neighbors are staying away.
To keep costs down, the management goes through the casino with the cheese slicer. Almost every year one or two gaming tables disappear and almost every year the workforce shrinks by ten to twenty people.
But despite the cutbacks, Nijmegen is sinking further and further into the pecking order of Holland Casinos.
In 2008, the year that the crisis broke out, Nijmegen was only good for 4 percent of the net operating result of Holland Casino. For comparison: the very young Venlo is already good for 7 percent.
The crisis, deep debts and the recovery
In 2009, partly due to the crisis, Holland Casino Nijmegen made a loss for the first time in history: € 700,000.
The following year the figures are even darker red: € 1.5 million loss. The number of visitors has dropped to 339,000 and the turnover remains at just € 32.5 million. In 2005 that was € 51 million. Au.
After 2010, Holland Casino will stop publishing sales and profit figures per casino, probably because those figures have become too dramatic.
In 2013 it appears that the casino chain has € 60 million in debt and is under "special management" with the banks.
Nevertheless, the management keeps courage and investments are made in the Nijmegen location. In 2014 the entire interior will be modernized and a new enthusiastic casino manager, Arno Bongers, will be taking over. In 2015 another real renovation will be done.
Holland Casino Nijmegen is now doing well again. The visitor numbers from around the turn of the century will probably never be met again, but with 350,000 guests a year the casino makes a profit in any case.
Special winners in Holland Casino Nijmegen
Speaking of profit: although the Nijmegen site is not in the top 10 highest jackpots ever at Holland Casino, a few very special prizes have been won in the history of Holland Casino Nijmegen.
In 2015, a 49-year-old man won 218,000 euros at the roulette table in just an hour and a half. That is the highest amount ever won by a guest in roulette on one night in the Imperial City.
In 2016, a player wins EUR 167,889.35 with Multi Poker, the modern version of Caribbean Stud Poker. The player was dealt the highest card combination, a royal flush, and played for the jackpot.
And then there is 37-year-old Joris Philipsen from Nijmegen. From November 10, 2015 to January 3, 2016, there is a giant champagne bottle in every Holland Casino location. That bottle is filled with tokens. Visitors may guess how many chips are in the bottle. And what do you think? Joris Philipsen guessed exactly the right number. 22,186 tokens. He wins 100,000 euros.
Lastly, Mister Casino mentions the 12 millionth visitor to Holland Casino Nijmegen. He will report to the reception on November 23, 2018. It is Joke Eickhoff-Filius from Nieuw-Vennep.
Casino manager Arno Bongers congratulates Eickhoff-Filius and hands her a check for a city trip to – how could it be otherwise – Rome.
View Holland Casino Nijmegen for yourself
Like this. You now know the entire history of Holland Casino Nijmegen. You have to tell Mr. Casino: you won't find much of the Roman theme in 2019 anymore.
The casino has been rebuilt several times inside and the last renovation has just been completed. Moreover, the management of Holland Casino wants the branches to get the same look more and more.
Curious about Holland Casino Nijmegen? You can take a look inside from the comfort of your armchair.
Watch this episode of Alles Draait, a program from the regional channel RN7. In 20 minutes you get a look in front of and behind the scenes of the casino on the Waalkade:
Photos in black and white: thanks to the Municipality of Nijmegen.
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