Gambling in Switzerland

Switzerland is an attractive country in terms of tourism, and thanks to a well-developed gambling, fans of this entertainment like to come here as well. The legislation of the country significantly reduced risks for gamblers, the legal regulation of this sphere is at a high level. This is despite the fact that the law about gambling in Switzerland, in its revised and full version was approved just 16 years ago.

Condition of gambling business in Switzerland

Some officials of the Federal Council on gambling still criticise specifics of the organisation of this business in the country. The reason is that the existing land-based casinos (21 establishments) are officially divided into two segments.

  1. The first group – 13 casinos – has the right to have only 250 slot machines where the visitor can make the maximum rate of 25 Swiss francs. The winning amount is also limited – no more than 25,000.
  2. The second group – the remaining 8 casinos that are not bound by such restrictions.

The Swiss government is willing to support gambling. The recently adopted law allows activities in the virtual sphere land-based gambling venues, but it will come into force only in 2019. Currently, online casinos in the country are banned. The official gambling age in Switzerland is 18 years of age.

Those who wish to play casino games online can go to the site, which offers free demo versions of slots and table games. Often such entertainment is not banned as portals that provide them offer slot machines for informational purposes. But sometimes internet providers see this as gambling ads, so in some cases, they block free slots. They also can do it without explaining why access is restricted.

Supporting gambling business in the country is profitable for the government of Switzerland. The reason for this is partly a new trend in tourism. Choosing where to go for a vacation, people consider, among other things, the presence of gambling venues and how much this field is developed there.

In addition to casinos, sports betting and lotteries are legalised in Switzerland. Due to the country’s loyal policy, the is budget regularly replenished by significant sums. For example, in 2014, such revenues amounted to USD $ 2 billion.

Playing for real money in gambling casinos in Switzerland is allowed to any adult citizen. The only limitation – gambling addiction. If the person has this illness, his data is recorded in the electronic register and no casino won’t let him enter.

Brief information about the country

The official name of the country – the Swiss Confederation. Key facts:

  • Since 2002, it is a member of the UN, since 2004 – of the Schengen Agreement.
  • The Federal Republic is divided into 26 cantons.
  • Each canton has its legislation limited by the Federal Constitution.
  • Federal law regulates the issues of foreign policy, railways, telecommunications, military, war and peace, money emission. It also approves the budget of the country.
  • It has two enclaves: Büsingen belongs to Germany and Campione di Italia belongs to Italy.

Legislative power in Switzerland is bicameral Federal Assembly, which consists of two equal subjects: the Council of States and the National Council.

The executive branch – the Federal Council, which includes seven officers, each leads its own department. Two officials act as a President of the Confederation and Vice-President respectively.

Legislative regulation of the gambling industry

The Constitution prescribes purposes of legislative regulation of gambling in the country:

  1. The gambling laws in Switzerland are intended to serve as a guarantor of the security of players and transparent activities of the operators of gambling.
  2. They prevent the criminalisation of this sphere, laundering money through gambling establishments.
  3. Laws prevent negative social consequences provoked by gambling.
  4. They contribute to the increase in cash flow in the budget of the country and cantons, as well as the development of tourism.
  5. According to Article 106 of the Swiss Constitution, the Union should monitor the compliance with legislation on lotteries and gambling games. To legalise activities, the institution should acquire a license. For the issuance of the license, it is necessary to take into account the laws and regulations of a particular canton, as well as calculate the potential risks associated with gambling.

    Each casino must deduct a fee for the Union budget, which does not exceed 40%. These funds are distributed between such costs:

    • old age subsidies;
    • loss of the breadwinner;
    • disability.

    The use of slot machines is managed by cantons, the tax is deducted to their budgets.

    Article 106 highlights two kinds of gambling games: lotteries and betting and those organised by casinos. The provisions of the gambling act if Switzerland Federal Act on Lotteries and Commercial Betting apply to the lottery, the implementation of which is controlled by the Intercantonal Lotteries and Betting Board.

    Along with Article 106, the gambling is controlled by the Law on Gambling and Casinos, which entered into force on 04.01.2000 and became the basis for the organisation of gambling entertainment in the country. This kind of pastime is legal only in licensed establishments.

    Federal Center monitors taxation issues, supervision and licensing. Although the use of online gambling in Switzerland is forbidden, it is not prosecuted, so the Swiss have a fun spending their money in virtual casinos. For example, in 2010, online casinos have earned EUR 400 million only from the citizens of Switzerland.

    Popular Swiss casinos

    Here are the most popular gambling venues of the country listed and briefly described.

    • Casino Bad Ragaz AG – the total area of ​​1700 m2, 125 slots, 7 table games, restaurant, hotel.
    • Grand Casino Baden – the total area of ​​3400 m2, 344 slots, 26 table games, poker, restaurant.
    • Grand Casino Basel – the total area of ​​5000 m2, 355 slots, 14 table games, poker, restaurant.
    • Grand Casino Kursaal Bern AG – the total area of ​​3600 m2, 255 slots, 12 table games, poker, restaurant, hotel.
    • Casino du Jura SA – the total area of ​​500 m2, 95 slots, 6 table games.
    • Casino Crans-Montana – the total area of ​​500 m2, 133 slots, 9 table games, poker and a restaurant.
    • Casino Davos AG – the total area of ​​230 m2, 70 slots and 5 table games, poker and hotel.
    • Granges-Paccot Casino – the total area of ​​250 m2, 136 slots, and 8 table games, poker and a restaurant.
    • Casino Interlaken – the total area of ​​350 m2, 136 slots, 7 table games, poker and a restaurant.
    • Casino Lugano SA – the total area of ​​660 m2, 150 slots, and 8 table games, poker and a restaurant.
    • Grand Luzern Casino – the total area of ​​1020 m2, 245 slots, 19 table games, poker and a restaurant.
    • Casino ‘Admiral SA – the total area of 2050 m2, 150 slots, 30 table games and a restaurant.
    • Movenpick Hotel & Casino Geneva – the total area of 1800 m2, 165 slots, 15 gaming tables and a hotel.
    • Casino de Montreux – the total area of 3160 m2, 380 slots, 25 table games, poker and a restaurant.
    • Casino Zurichsee – the total area of 1765 m2, 165 slots, 11 table games, poker, restaurant and hotel.
    • Swiss Casinos Schaffhausen – the total area of 1600 m2, 107 slots, and 8 table games, poker and a restaurant.
    • Grand Casino St. Gallen AG – the total area of 1500 m2, 195 slots and 9 table games.
    • Casino St. Moritz AG – the total area of 560 m2, 75 slots, 7 table games and poker.

    You can check out the map and learn where you can find casinos in Switzerland.

    Licensing of casinos

    To open a casino, you must obtain two permits:

    • for location;
    • for operation.

    Each document issued by the federal government. It is necessary to carefully prepare for the submission of petitions as the refusal cannot be appealed. The preparing process includes:

    • Justification of the economic benefits of a casino in the territory of a particular canton.
    • The economic analysis of the proposed activity.
    • Guarantees for payment of the corresponding taxes.
    • Safety concept.
    • Social concept.

    The Federal government also takes into account the opinion of the municipality and a canton in the territory of which it is planned to open a gambling institution.

    All of the above documents to obtain permits are considered by a specific body referred to in the fourth section of the Gambling Act. It is the Federal Council on Gambling, consisting of 5-7 people elected by the government. One of the members of the Board is nominated by cantons, two by independent experts, that must not be employees of casinos, organisers or board members of enterprises producing gaming equipment.

    The Federal Council on gambling is a division of the Ministry of Justice. Its decision is the key when deciding whether the authorisation will be given a particular applicant or not.

    When permits are obtained, the subject receives a license authorising him to engage in the gambling business. It is worth noting that the Swiss government is loyal to foreign operators, welcoming them to their gambling entertainment market because they provide the country with the foreign investment. The leaders here are the companies of France and Austria.

    Terms of casino activities in Switzerland

    A casino must follow the rules:

    • Do not miss a person under 18 years of age (as this is the legal gambling age in Switzerland) and those whose work is associated with casinos (civil servants who control gambling venues, casino employees).
    • Do not let in those suffering from gambling addiction and those whose income does not correspond to the concept of responsible gambling.

    Black lists of those who should not be let in casinos are formed in a single register, spread throughout all casinos of the country. A gambling venue should record activities of each of its clients – it is necessary to record all of his losses and winnings.

    Financial operations of gambling institutions are seriously controlled to prevent the laundering of money. Casinos does not have the right to provide its customers with loans in any form.

    In Switzerland, casino advertising is permitted, but it must be truthful and not intrusive. For example, you cannot talk only about the winnings and not mention the risks associated with the game.


    Switzerland has a progressive tax system, which implies that the rate increases in proportion to casino’s revenue. However, the gambling tax in Switzerland does not exceed 40% of the gross income of a gambling establishment.

    Casinos in the country are divided into two classes:

    • Class “A” – taxes on these casinos are immediately transferred to the state budget.
    • Class “B” has the privilege – the tax rate in the first 4 years is 20%, but for this, it is necessary to fulfil certain conditions:
    • Casino revenues must be used for charitable or public purposes.
    • A gambling venue should be located in areas where the economy is dependent on the tourist season.

    Taxes on casinos of Class “B” are distributed among the treasury of its canton and the federal budget.

    Formation of the law on gambling

    It is interesting to look deeper into how the legislation on gambling business in Switzerland was formed as gambling industry in this country is at a fairly high level, in spite of the youth framework. The authorities were able to do a great work to ensure comprehensive regulation of gambling business. The result was formulated by the Law on Gambling and Casinos, which had been under consideration since 1998 and adopted in 2000. It balanced and took into account the interests of all three parties:

    • gambling business;
    • society;
    • State.

    Federal government not always could interfere in the gambling business of the country. Until 1874, only cantons could regulate casinos activities. Among the 26 cantons, only one had an operating casino that strongly irritated the federal government, that had a negative attitude to the gambling business then.

    Ban times

    So, canton Valais authorities issued a license to a gambling venue for 30 years in 1847. The casino opened in 1854 and its revenues were spent on the development of tourism in the canton. It worked until 1877 and closed because federal authorities had passed a law forbidding any gambling three years before.

    It is interesting, that in this period, there was another casino opened in 1857 in Geneva. In that canton, gambling was banned, but the owner of the casino – Italian businessman – took advantage of his connections, economic and political weight, that he had in Geneva. Therefore, his casino has worked until 1864.

    When in 1872 all gambling venues in Germany were closed, the Swiss authorities were concerned by the fact that now the German operators would leave for their country. Therefore, they constitutionally banned all gambling activities with laws adopted in 1874. In particular, article 35 stipulates that organising and maintaining a casino is strictly prohibited. It issued an order, according to which all gambling establishments must be closed to 31.12.1877, which practically could apply only to a casino in canton Valais.

    It is interesting that both the Constitution and the Federal Law did not give a clear definition of what a “gambling establishment”. The result of this misstep was the widespread gambling in different institutions, though the government closed eyes on that. For example, if the bet in the game “Boules” was no more than 5 francs, it was considered an acceptable entertainment. This condescending attitude to gambling encouraged owners of smoking rooms to offer their customers not only the “Boules” but other gambling games, such as baccarat.

    Formation of the new legislation

    The Swiss authorities understood that gambling was still developing, but in their country, this process was underground and chaotic. Therefore, at the beginning of the XX century, they decided to make the necessary amendments to the Constitution. By 1920, the 35 article of the Constitution updated with a provision stating that the governments of cantons have the right to give permission to smoking rooms owners to conduct some forms of the gambling business. Such permission could be given by the authorities of cantons until spring of 1925, guided by the public interest. The authorities acknowledged that these games promote the development of tourism.

    With that amendment, the federal government also allowed the cantons to prohibit conducting gambling business. In this way, the government disclaimed responsibility for the regulation of gambling business. However, one amendment was not enough, so the consideration of this issue was resumed in 1927. The authorities developed the rules of gambling. They were as follows:

    • The volume of bets should be limited with two Franks.
    • Individuals cannot do gambling business, exclusively companies can act as operators.
    • Revenues from gambling should go to the development of regional and local tourism.
    • When a canton issues a license to conduct gambling business, it must be additionally approved by the federal government.
    • The federal budget should receive 25% of a casino gross revenue.
    • The gambling age in Switzerland is 18 years of age.

    In 1928, the first, fourth and fifth positions acquired a constitutional status. The fifth position was updated – 25% of a casino gross revenue goes to the budget of the Confederation, where it is distributed to the needs of victims of natural disasters and public events.

    Current legislation

    In 1958, the size of the bet was increased to 25 francs, and in 1977 the game “Boules” became legal on slot machines that could be installed only in smoking rooms. With the passing of time, the number of games on slots increased, they became more diverse.

    In 1999, a new Constitution, which came into force in 2000, solved all the issues on the regulation of the gambling industry. This area of activity is given the article 106, which states that the Union must adopt and approve the laws on lotteries and gambling. To conduct work legally, gambling venues have to obtain a license of the Union, which is given by the latter, taking into account regional peculiarities and casino location. So, today gambling is legal in Switzerland.

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