Switzerland’s online casino gamblers finally have another locally licensed option, while land-based operators are being prevented from shutting down their gaming tables during a pandemic.
On Monday, Switzerland’s federal gaming board (ESBK) announced that Group Partouche’s Casino du Lac Meyrin in Geneva had been formally authorized to commence online casino operations via its Pasino.ch site.
The site, which is powered by the Gamanza Group (which also powers Grand Casino Baden’s online casino) is currently offering a variety of online slots and table games (both RNG and live) from the likes of Evolution, NetEnt, LeoVegas’ Red Tiger brand, among others.
Partouche received its initial ESBK approval back in April but the company dragged its feet getting its online site up and running. That created a void that was promptly filled by BC.Game, an operator of Ethereum-based online casinos that chose to launch a Pasino.com site which the ESBK saw fit to include in its latest online gambling blacklist.
Switzerland now boasts seven locally licensed online casinos, the first of which (Grand Casino Baden’s Jackpots.ch) launched in July 2019. The sites proved popular during the country’s pandemic shutdown of retail casino operations, although operators cautioned that online revenue was only replacing a fraction of their lost land-based revenue.
Casinos Austria International’s Casino Lugano received its initial online approval at the same time as Partouche’s Geneva venue but neither CAI nor the ESBK have offered any indication when the Lugano site will launch.
Like most European countries, Switzerland is experiencing a surge in new COVID-19 infections but the Swiss test positivity rate has dramatically eclipsed its European rivals. This has led a number of regional cantons to impose new pandemic lockdowns, with varying impact on local casino operations.
Some casinos, such as Partouche’s Crans-Montana and CAI’s Grand Casino Kursaal Bern, were ordered by cantonal authorities to close their doors for several weeks to limit further COVID-19 transmission. Other casinos (including Partouche’s Geneva venue) are operating under reduced hours with many of their slot machines switched off to ensure proper social distancing.
However, gaming table operations face additional challenges from Switzerland’s Gambling Act, which requires casinos to offer at least two types of table games that must be available to customers for at least one-third of the casinos’ operating hours. The ESBK has the power to grant exceptions to this rule but only for regions that are “economically dependent on pronounced seasonal tourism.”