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Swiss casinos call for regulatory overhaul as sales decline continues

Switzerland’s casino association, the Fédération Suisse des Casinos, has called for stricter gambling laws to be introduced after the country's land-based industry saw sales decline for the eighth consecutive year.

Swiss casinos saw sales fall 4.1 per cent year-on-year to CHF680.9m (€622.9m), with total sales down by a third since 2007, with this trend expected to continue under the current regulatory system, even with changes to the laws expected to be made this year.

Casinos in Lugano and Davos saw the largest declines, with sales down 24 per cent to CHF33.6m and 24.1 per cent to CHF2m respectively. Both of the country’s leading casinos, in Montreux (sales up 1.7 per cent to CFH72.6m) and Zurich (up 4.7 per cent to CHF 63.9m) grew over the year.

In October last year the country’s Federal Council published draft laws under which land-based casinos will be allowed to apply for online gaming licences and a tax on players’ winnings be scrapped. It is designed to boost the market by allowing online casino games and lift restrictions on small-stakes poker tournaments.

It also proposes blocking unlicensed sites and implementing stricter controls to ensure a higher standard of consumer protection. 

The system is likely to come into place from 2019 should it be approved, replacing the 1998 Gaming Act and 1923 Lottery Act.

However with turnover down 33 per cent since 2007 and contributions to the Cantons and AVS social programme down 40 per cent since that year, the federation has called for the laws to urgently address these issues.

It says that the new law on gambling must ensure a competitive environment for the existing operators, picking out three key areas.

The federation believes that blocking access to unlicensed sites operated by foreign companies must be introduced urgently.

“Unlike the Swiss casinos, these operators do not offer protection against gambling addiction or pay back any income to the AVS and the cantons,” it says. “Meanwhile, they also cause distortion of competition.”

It also supports the proposal to allow third parties to organise poker tournaments outside of casinos, but only if those offering these tournaments are subject to the same rigorous controls as the land-based venues. This, however, should not mean that entities offering poker organisations every night should be allowed, the federation adds.

Finally, the federation wants to ensure that the casinos must be able to offer a competitive and attractive range of products.

“This means the power to offer sports games as well as sports betting and lottery products from Swisslos and the Loterie Romande, similar to kiosks and bistros,” it says. “Casinos offer the best conditions for this. They guarantee a complete prevention of gambling addiction and provide, through their input controls, no minors or excluded individuals participate in gambling.”

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