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Cirsa Logo.svg
Founded: 1978-10-05
Terrassa, Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain

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Cirsa Gaming Corporation S.A., is a Spanish holding company, who is the parent of the Cirsa Gaming Corporation Group (formerly Cirsa Business Corporation Group), which consists of a set of companies operating in the gaming and leisure sector.


Cirsa was founded on October 5, 1978, in Terrassa, Barcelona by Spanish businessman Manuel Lao Hernández[1][2][3] and his brother Juan Lao Hernández[3], which began importing, exporting and operating third party manufactured slot machines in bars, cafés, restaurants and arcades in the Catalonia region of Spain, following the liberalization of the Spanish gaming industry in 1977.

Before 1978, the brothers runned a restaurant that they inherited from their father[4], D. Cándido Lao García[5], called "Egara"[6], located in Terrassa, where they settled after leaving their hometown[4] Doña Maria, a small village located in the Province of Almería, when the Spanish gaming industry was liberalized and several forms of gambling like the instant lotery were introduced.

Without a proper regulation instant lotery became an enourmous headache for Spanish authorities, as several types of scratchards of dubious nature manufactured by all kinds of people, from bar owners to amusement operators and even criminal organizations, started[7] to flood the market.

According[8] to Jaume Sanahuja Junyent[9][10], founder and former president of Barcelona-based companies Machines Games Automatics S.A. and Videomatic S.A., which at the time, competed[11] with the two brothers Manuel and Juan Lao as a scratchcard vendor, it all ended in 1981 when the Government of Spain prohibited the comercialization of scratshcards not manufactured by The Royal Mint of Spain (Spanish: Fábrica Nacional de Moneda y Timbre – Real Casa de la Moneda "National Coinage and Stamp Factory – Royal Mint") and the instant lotery started to be controled by the Ministry of Finance (Spanish: Ministerio de Hacienda).

It was[11] arround this time (1977), that Jaume Sanahuja's, who was already a manufacturer of mechanical games proposed a deal to Manuel Lao (who at this time was already copying and cloning Jaume Sanahuja's machines) which consisted in cloning the mechanical games of the biggest Spanish manufacturers of the time, like Madrid-based Petaco S.A. (founded in 1962 by Francisco Arbós Balleste, father-in-law of legendary Real Madrid's midfielder and former Segasa's Marketing Manager Manuel Velázquez Villaverde) or Barcelona-based Industrias Laguna (founded in 1953 by Santiago Laguna Llop).

Manuel Lao accepted and the two began manufacturing copied machines, in the factory of Carrosserias Costa S.A. coachbuilder[11][12], founded in 1949[13] (as Talleres Esteban Costa Net) as a repair shop by Esteban Costa Net and runned by his son Enrique Costa Sellés from Terrassa, and at the same time making plans to form their own company.

However in 1978, Manuel Lao finished his partnership with Jaume Sanahuja and founded Compañía Internacional de Recreativos S.A. with his brother Juan Lao and began importing, exporting and operating third party manufactured slot machines in bars, cafés, restaurants and arcades in the Catalonia region of Spain.

Shortly thereafter, in 1979, the two brothers began to design and manufacture slot machines for the Spanish market and by the mid 1980s, the two were established as a leading slot machine manufacturer in Spain.

In 1982 they changed the name of the company to Cirsa Compañía de Inversiones, S.A. expanding their activities to all autonomous regions of Spain and establishing their industrial division Unidesa (Universal de Desarrolos Electronicos S.A.) and in 1984 they manufactured their first casino-style slot machines.

In 1985 the company, opens its first casino "Casino Marbella" and increases the number of slot machines under operation significantly in the early 1990s through the acquisition of operating companies and by acquiring controlling interests in a number of slot machine distributors located throughout Spain.

In the same year the company expanded into a number of related businesses, both domestically and internationally, including slot machines, casinos and bingo halls, as well as into a number of unrelated businesses (which they subsequently disposed of) like ownership and management of hotels, like Hotel Don Candido, their and Terrassa's first hotel (named after their father, who died[5] in 1984), whose construction started in 1989[14] and was concluded in 1992[14], just in time to accommodate the several men and women national field hockey teams that competed at the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona, for which the city of Terrassa was elected as the olympic headquarters for this sport, and also real estate development through Ingesa, a company of the group[15][16] (at arround this time the group was composed[15] of 108 companies).

In 1993, AmuseTEC S.L. is founded as an importer, exporter, distributor and exclusive manufacturer of "Type A" (amusement-only) arcade machines, with licenses from companies like Namco, Konami, Williams/Nintendo and Sega. These had previously been manufactured by Unidesa who from that time on became the exclusive manufacturer of "Type B" (amusement-with-prize) and "Type C" (casino-type slot machines) machines within the group.

In 1996, Manuel Lao Hernández together with his wife and children founded the Leysure & Gaming Corporation Group (renamed[14] as Nortia Business Corporation in September 2007) focused mainly on Manuel Lao's investments in other leisure and gaming companies and the real estate he owned, managed and leased and in July 1998[17] he bought substantially all of his brother's interest in Cirsa for 20,000,000[17] pesetas, transferring any operations in the gaming industry which were not already part of Cirsa, but in which Manuel Lao Hernández had a controlling interest, to Cirsa.

Cirsa became one of the leading gaming companies in Spain, Italy, as well as in a number of countries in Latin America, like Argentina, Panama, Colombia, Peru, Mexico and Costa Rica.

In 2018[18] Manuel Lao Hernández sold[1] Cirsa to an American private equity fund managed by Blackstone for an estimated €2,6 billion (including[16] €950,000,000 in debt). The transaction did not included its business in Argentina which continues in the hands of the Lao family.


Promotional material

Print advertisements

Print advert in (ES) #40: "Enero 1988" (1988-xx-xx)

External links


  1. 1.0 1.1 (
  2. File:Technical High School of Industrial Engineering of Terrassa Identity Document 1961-09-30.pdf, page 2
  3. 3.0 3.1 Azar, "Noviembre 1987" (ES; 1987-xx-xx), page 43
  4. 4.0 4.1 File:Technical High School of Industrial Engineering of Terrassa Identity Document 1961-09-30.pdf, page 3
  5. 5.0 5.1 File:LaVanguardia ES 1984-05-07 Page 18.png
  6. (
  7. Azar, "Septiembre 1984" (ES; 1984-xx-xx), page 51
  8. Azar, "Octubre/Noviembre 1984" (ES; 1984-xx-xx), page 58
  9. Azar, "Octubre/Noviembre 1984" (ES; 1984-xx-xx), page 59
  10. Azar, "Marzo 1985" (ES; 1985-xx-xx), page 1
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 Azar, "Octubre/Noviembre 1984" (ES; 1984-xx-xx), page 60
  12. (
  13. (Wayback Machine: 2020-09-12 19:16)
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 (
  15. 15.0 15.1 Azar, "Febrero 1985" (ES; 1985-xx-xx), page 15
  16. 16.0 16.1 (
  17. 17.0 17.1 Mundo Vending, "Septiembre/Octubre 1998" (ES; 1998-xx-xx), page 6
  18. Press Release: 2018-04-27 : Manuel Lao vende Cirsa, líder española del juego y el ocio, a Blackstone