Apparently, Switzerland is one of the most attractive European territories and allures millions of visitors per year mainly with its diverse landscape, prepossessing attractions, and astounding activities. This Central European country is home to the prestigious Alps, Zoo Basel, the Bärengraben (Berne Bear exhibit), the Rhine Falls, the Gotthard Base Tunnel, the ancient Swiss National Museum, the Zytglogge clock tower in Bern, the Kapellbrücke covered wooden chapel bridge in Luzern, the Eiger Mountain, the Berner Oberland region, the international finance city of Zürich, the Pilatus mountain, the luxury town of St. Moritz, and a wealth of others.
Besides, the country is well-known throughout the world for its numerous ski resorts, Swiss watches, money-related industries, hiking trails, resort villages, lakes, mountains, and chocolate. When combined with its gambling industry, we have a splendid country.
Gambling has quite a history in Switzerland. The first gambling activities took place as far back as the era of the Roman Empire. At the time, games of chance were generally illegal, with an exception during festive periods. The general ban was as a result of many problem gamblers in the country at the time, who would lose their entire fortune on games of chance. This illegal, but occasionally, the legal system continued until the Middle Ages.
This was when many games of chance attained a new level of popularity. Despite the popularity, the authorities put a ban on these games for moral, religious, and social reasons. In fact, the ban was serious to an extent that Swiss gamblers were being alienated in their habitat. In the 16th century, French reformer John Calvin, during a Reformation in 1547, preached against gambling with gold, silver, or any other high-value item but neutral on low-stakes gambling.
As with other European territories, the 18th century saw the lottery being developed fragmentarily throughout the country. However, the authorities gave an affirmative response to lottery games run for charity and other charitable purposes but for-profit lotteries were equally denied. Despite the denial, for-profit lotteries still existed illegally in the country and the authorities were struggling to completely suppress illegal gambling.
A successful prohibition of gambling houses (more like casinos) came through in the 19th century based on the claim that gambling made people lazy and discourage work. Therefore, gambling became a threat to social stability and a ban was validated in 1874 – although the 26 cantons of Switzerland respected it differently (most applied the ban incoherently). In 1881, Casinò Barrière de Montreux opened strategically on the shores of Lake Geneva as the first casino in Switzerland.
Soon enough, in 1920 and 1928, the very first and second votes on the legislation and regulation of gambling took place. At the time, gambling was tackled by more than half of the population based on immorality and the aforementioned prohibition of gambling houses and strict regulation of lotteries were still intact.
On June 8, 1923, the Federal Act on Lotteries and Commercial Betting (and its parallel Ordinance) was approved. Similarly, in 1929, the Federal Act on Gambling Houses was approved. Both enforced strict regulations on lotteries and gambling houses respectively.
The first Act restricted the operation of lotteries to certain cantons and a great percentage of their revenues must be used for social developments in their respective cantons, not the Confederation. The second Act permitted the operation of gambling houses in certain cantons but only to effectively attract tourists.
Another vote took place in 1993, and this was when the legislation of gambling took a positive turn in Switzerland.
The Swiss Federal Council conceived the creation of casinos that would provide high-stakes games within the country. Well, the Confederation had little to no choice as it was facing serious financial problems because of the healthcare costs of its aging citizens. Therefore, the Confederation needed to generate impressive revenues so the casino market was opened in 1993.
Unfortunately, problem gambling which was once considered a hot-button issue, became the norm and fell on the deaf ears of the authorities as attention was shifted to gambling taxation. On the issue, a series of debates by numerous Swiss politicians occurred and debates escalated with respect to time.
Nevertheless, problem gambling caught the attention of the authorities once again in the mid-1990s. On December 18, 1998, a fresh law, the Federal Act on Games of Chance and Casinos (Bundesgesetz über Glücksspiele und Spielbanken), was approved to address problem gambling in Swiss casinos and recommend specific social measures, and fully legalize casinos and casino games.
One of the most notable laws in the Act is the division of casinos into Type A and Type B. The first consists of casinos with unlimited gaming options and is permitted in Montreux, Zürich, Lugano, Bern, Basel, St. Gallen, Lucerne, and Baden. The second consists of casinos which are limited to 150 gaming machines and is permitted in other areas. The Act was signed by the Swiss Federal Council on February 23, 2000, and applied on April 1, 2000.
Casinos were therefore instructed to double-check the identity and age of customers and ban customers who had any form of financial problem at all. At the time, the authorities were giving out concessions so casino operators were required to provide a defined strategy to tackle problem gambling before obtaining one.
For one, casino employees were trained to identify problem gamblers and request for a bank statement, salary attestation, or any other similar document that is accepted. If the gambler was found to be down on finances and/or with an unacceptable gambling habit, he/she would be banned from all casinos within the length and breadth of the Swiss Confederation.
To oversee casino gambling, monitor compliance with the Federal Act on Games of Chance and Casinos, and decide if a game is of skill or chance, the six-member Federal Gaming Board (FGB) was established as an independent regulator under the Federal Department of Justice and Police. While the FGB oversees casinos, lotteries and betting operators were overseen by the authorities of the cantons individually, until 2006 when the Comlot (Intercantonal Lottery and Betting Board) was collaboratively established.
Meanwhile, the Swiss Federal Council issues casino licenses and specify the validity period of each license.
The Comlot, on the other hand, is in charge of the tasks of both Federal Gaming Board and Swiss Federal Council regarding lotteries and betting operators. Therefore, the board is the jurisdiction of lotteries and betting operators and issues licenses, regulates the facilities, monitor their compliance with the Federal Act on Lotteries and Commercial Betting, specify the validity period of each license, etc. However, each canton still has the legal right to place an embargo on a lottery or betting operator approved by the Comlot, and, logically, the embargo stays within the region of the canton.
Furthermore, there are two lottery operators in Switzerland licensed and regulated by the Comlot. The first is the Basel-based Swisslos charitable lottery operator, which operates some of the most popular lottery games throughout Switzerland: Millionenlos, Happy Day, and Win for Life. The second is the Loterie Romande, which was established in 1937 by the Lausanne-based Société de la Loterie de la Suisse Romande (Lottery Society of the French-speaking Romandy region of Switzerland). Ironically, both operators offer lottery games and pari-mutuel sports betting services today.
On July 1, 2006, the Interkantonale Vereinbarung zum Lotteriewesen (Intercantonal Agreement on Lotteries) became effective, though it has been approved since May 26, 1937. Similarly, on January 7, 2005, the Swiss Intercantonal Convention on Licensing and Supervision of Intercantonal and National Lotteries and Bets was approved and became effective. Swiss lottery operators operate based on the two laws and the Federal Act on Lotteries and Commercial Betting.
In summary, the FGB works with respect to the Federal Act on Games of Chance and Casinos while the Comlot works with respect to the three aforementioned laws. The former governs all games of chance and jackpot systems (casino games) while the latter governs bingo, lotteries, sports betting, and other lottery and betting-related activities.
Casinos and the majority of casino games are flawlessly legal, and licensed, regulated, and monitored by the Federal Gaming Board. As of February 2018, there are exactly 21 casinos across the 26 cantons of the Swiss Federation. The Type A casinos are the casinos which tourists and elite gamblers would like to visit for they are the ones with luxe environments, numerous gaming options, exquisite amenities, and entertainment extras.
As a country, the Swiss Confederation is one of the most diverse countries on the planet. For one, there are 26 equally distinct cantons. Second, there are more than eight million people in the country and they speak German, French, Romansh, and Italian. Therefore, visitors from most parts of the world would enjoy their stay, although the language varies per region. When coupled with the boundless gambling options, Switzerland is easily one of the most cherished gambling destinations in the world.
The 21 casinos in Switzerland are situated in 21 distinct cantons. (Therefore, only five cantons do not have a casino.) Meanwhile, major cantons like Basel, Luzern, Montreux, St. Gallen, and Zürich have the nicest and biggest casinos in the country. The largest casino in Switzerland is Casinò Lugano, which offers 430 gaming machines, over 19 table games, and over 10,000 square feet of gaming space.
With over 300 gaming machines each, the second to the sixth largest casinos in Switzerland are Casinò Barriere de Montreux (more than 360), Grand Casinò Admiral Mendrisio (more than 350), Swiss Casinòs Zürich (precisely 312), Grand Casinò Baden (more than 310), and Grand Casinò Basel (more than 300) respectively.
Generally, Swiss casinos do not have accommodations on their property, but they are mostly situated near first-class hotels and resorts in which visitors from around the world frequently visit. There are more than just casinos in Switzerland, there are more than 10 racetracks for pari-mutuel horse racing betting (operated by Loterie Romande) and numerous sportsbooks, lottery outlets, and others.
There are many popular games of chance (or casino games) across the 26 cantons but Roulette, Video Poker, Slot Machines, Blackjack, American Roulette, Stud Poker, Baccarat, Poker, Tropical Stud Poker, Caribbean Stud Poker, Punto Banco, Omaha Hold’em Poker, Touch-bet Electronic Roulette, Texas Hold’em Poker, Ultimate Texas Hold’em Poker, Bärenpoker, French Roulette, English Roulette, Card Stud Poker, and Craps are the most widely played.
While casinos are quite popular in Switzerland, the lottery is the national gambling activity of the Confederation. The two Swiss operators offer a wide range of lottery and lottery-like games – including bingo (some casinos offer it too), scratch tickets, the Swiss Lotto, EuroMillions, the Tribolo, Banco, LotoExpress, Trio Magic, Banco Jass, Millionenlos, Happy Day, and Win for Life – offline and partially online.
Apart from horse racing betting, lotteries, and games of chance, sports betting is also well-known throughout the regions. As with other European territories, football (soccer) is the country’s favorite sport – and the Swiss people truly love watching and betting on football matches. Rugby, skiing, and a number of other winter sports are popular as well.
On the other hand, online gambling is actually illegal in Switzerland. The authorities keep online gambling operators from the country but allow players from Switzerland to gamble on offshore gambling websites without any legal obstacle. The banking sector also seems to be neutral on the grounds of online gambling transactions.
Below is a list of all casinos currently operating in the regions of Switzerland.
Casinò Bad Ragaz
Casinò Barriere de Courrendlin (Casino Barrier Jura)
Casinò Barrière de Montreux
Casinò Barrière Fribourg
Casinò de Crans-Montana
Casinò du Lac Meyrin – Genève
Casinò Interlaken at Congress Center Kursaal
Casinò Partouche Crans Montana
Casinò St. Moritz
Grand Casinò Admiral Mendrisio
Grand Casinò Baden
Grand Casinò Basel
Grand Casinò Bern at Kursaal Hotel
Grand Casinò Locarno
Grand Casinò Luzern – Lucerne
Swiss Casinòs Pfaffikon Zürichsee
Swiss Casinòs Schaffhausen
Swiss Casinòs St. Gallen at Radisson Blu
Swiss Casinòs Zürich
– The minimum gambling age in the Swiss Confederation is 18 years. Casino employees check a valid Passport, National Identity Card, or the casino’s loyalty card to verify certain data and are required to reject anyone with any financial or gambling problem. In fact, casinos make annual reports on their problem gambling measurements.
– Advertising, promoting, or marketing a gambling service is highly prohibited in Switzerland.
– By 1965, the Sport-Toto pari-mutuel betting operator had already generated more than CHF 100 million for charitable purposes.
– In 2016, Swisslos produced CHF 393 million in revenue and transferred CHF 216.8 million to the Cantonal Lottery Funds, CHF 24.85 to the Cantonal Offices of Sport, and CHF 10.65 million went to four sports associations: Swiss Football Association, Swiss Olympic, Hockey Leagues, and National Football.
– The first Swiss lottery – the Numbers Lottery – was created in 1970.
– The very first Swiss to ever win at least CHF one million in a gambling activity was in 1979.
– In December 2007, poker was declared a game of both skill and chance by the FGB.
– In 2003, Swisslos was established as a merger of the Interkantonale Landeslotterie (created in 1937), the Sport-Toto Association (created in 1938), and Berner Lotteriegenossenschaft SEVA (created in 1935). In the same year, Swisslos launched the Sporttip sports pool betting service. Currently, the company runs two sports betting services: Sporttip and Totogoal.
– In 2000, Swisslos started providing the Swiss Lotto online.
– Millionenlos is one of Swisslos’ most popular provisions. Ironically, the instant lotto – since its creation in 1999 – has been making at least a millionaire each year. In fact, the instant lotto made over 40 people millionaires in 2017. (The Millionenlos 2017 was provided in land-based outlets, online, via SMS, and via phone.)
– By 2009, the Swiss Lotto had already made 500 millionaires and celebrated the 500th millionaire.
– According to a recent Loterie Romande survey, 94 percent of the Romands know the operator, 86 percent trust it, 83 percent believe it is responsible, and 65 percent have-at any point in time-played at least one Loterie Romande game.
– The Société de la Loterie de la Suisse Romande is licensed according to the Article 60 of the Swiss Civil Code. The company is of and for the six French-speaking cantons: Friborg, Geneva, Jura (joined in 1979), Neuchâtel, Valais, and Vaud.
– On March 11, 2012, 87 percent of the Swiss people supported the decision of the Swiss Federal Council to limit lottery operations to operators with charitable goals alone.
– Presently, Swiss lawmakers are preparing a brand new Act to supersede the role of the Federal Act on Lotteries and Commercial Betting and should be effective by 2018.
– Loterie Romande pioneered scratch cards (or scratch tickets) with instant results in Europe in 1978.
– One of the country’s most popular lottery games, the Tribolo, was first organized as far back as 1987.
– Individually, Loterie Romande and Swisslos offer more than 10 provisions (sportsbooks, instant lotteries, etc.) Interestingly, the former operate horse racing bets within the six French-speaking cantons.
– Based on the fact that 100 percent of its revenues are allocated to public utility activities, Loterie Romande has donated more than CHF 3.6 billion for charitable deeds. In addition to charity, the company distributes its profits to culture, health and disability, youth, and education sectors.
– In addition to the Comlot, there are two government bodies for lotteries and betting: the Appeals Committee (Rekolot) and the Specialised Conference of Government Members Affected by the Law on Lotteries and the Lottery Market (created in July 2006).
– In May 2013, there were four consecutive big wins in Grand Casinò Baden in a course of four days. Accordingly, the prizes were CHF 23,852, CHF 40,235, 1kg of pure gold, and CHF 136,645.
– In January 2013, a couple won a jackpot of almost CHF 1.8 million while wagering on slot machines in Swiss Casinòs St. Gallen at Radisson Blu.
– Since its creation in 2006, professional poker players across Europe have been participating in the Swiss Open Poker Championship which takes place in September of each year.
– There are more than 269 gambling websites on which players from Switzerland can gamble.
– Statistically, 56 percent of the population participate in the Swiss lotteries frequently and 46 percent have at least once gambled in a casino.
– Casinò Barrière de Montreux has been renovated a number of times: in 1903, 1975, etc.
– Casinò Lugano – which publicly opened on November 29, 2002 – started off as a private society in 1804. At the time, the idea was to create a café with gaming rooms and there were three ‘occasional’ games: lottery-like Biribisso, the Bassetta card game, and dice.
– Bitcoin gambling is available in Switzerland. The Swiss Federal Council recently declared cryptocurrency illegal due to instability, therefore Bitcoin gambling is illegal. But similar to online gambling, players from Switzerland can gamble on Bitcoin gambling websites without facing any penalty.
– Ironically, Type A casinos pay low taxes while Type B casinos are taxed at higher rates.
– In the town of Ruswil, the unique Cow Bingo game is widely participated in; a pitch is marked so it looks like a bingo card and cows are let into the pitch, players then bet on the field in which a particular cow will deposit its dung.
– The Swiss Confederation is not a member of the European Union, so the union cannot interfere with Swiss issues. If the Confederation was a member, the EU would have pressured the authorities to loosen its strict gambling laws like the cases of Sweden, the Netherlands, Portugal, Italy, Germany, and France.