Swiss casinos reverse revenue slide, prep online gambling sites


swiss-online-casino-jackpotsSwitzerland’s casinos reported modest a profit increase in 2016, snapping a nearly decade-long losing streak.

New figures released by the Swiss Federation of Casinos (SFC) show the country’s 21 licensed brick-and-mortar gaming venues reported gross profits of CHF 689m (US $711m) in 2016, 1.2% higher than 2015’s total. Twelve Swiss casinos posted year-on-year gains last year, while the other nine suffered slight declines.

While modest, the overall gain marks the first time since 2007 that the annual figure has nudged upward, so the industry – and the government, which saw its share of casino revenue rise 3.2% to CHF 323m – will take it. That said, 2016’s figure was well below the CHF 769m generated in 2004, the first year of legal casino gambling in Switzerland, and nearly one-third off the market’s 2007 peak of CHF 1.02b.

The SFC points fingers at a small army of culprits who are allegedly behind the casinos’ decline, including a smoking ban, a strong Swiss franc deterring cross-border gambling visitation and the growth of illegal gambling dens, which the SFC believe deprive their members of an estimated CHF 150m per year.

But the SFC’s favorite nemesis remains those pesky international online gambling sites who serve Swiss punters, reaping estimated revenue of CHF 250m per year in the process. The SFC is counting on the Swiss government to carry through with its promise to begin blocking the domains of unauthorized gambling sites later this year.

After interminable delays, Swiss politicians approved legislation this spring that will finally allow local casino operators to launch their own online sites. Last week, Jürg Altorfer, chairman of casino operator Stadtcasino AG, used the company’s annual general meeting to inform shareholders that the company’s Grand Casino Baden – the third-largest in the country – was feverishly prepping its new online casino (pictured) in preparation for legislators firing their online starting gun.