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Switzerland’s land-based casino operators post profit

Tue, Jul 9, 4:15pm by Staff Writer

Switzerland’s land-based casino operators reported revenue gains in 2018, despite their repeated claims of being taken to the cleaners by internationally licensed online gambling operators, Calvin Ayre reports.

Last Wednesday, Switzerland’s Federal Gaming Commission (ESBK) delivered its 2018 annual report, which showed that the nation’s casinos generated gross gaming revenue (GGR) at US$714.3m last year.

That’s a 3.3 per cent rise over 2017’s result, which had shown a year-on-year decline.

Slot machines remain Swiss casinos’ bread and butter, with slots revenue rising 2.7 per cent year-on-year to and accounting for nearly 81 per cent of total GGR.

That being said, table games posted a larger percentage gain, up 6.2 per cent.

The government’s share of all this bounty rose 4.7 per cent to US$335.6m.

The ESBK’s efforts to stamp out these casinos’ unauthorized rivals was also on the rise in 2018.

The ESBK opened 98 new illegal gambling cases last year, of which 30 remained under review when the New Year began.

In total, the ESBK had 117 unresolved cases at the end of 2018.

The ESBK issued 255 case rulings last year, along with a total of US$1.5m in financial penalties.

The CHF also issued claims on US$508,000 in illegal gambling profits, although staking these claims is always easier than actually collecting.

Both casino revenue and illegal gambling probes are expected to jump when the ESBK releases its 2019 report next summer.

The Swiss regulated online gambling market officially got underway on July 1, although the ESBK has to date issued online permits to only four casino operators.

Most of the international online operators that have yet to find a required local casino partner have wound down their Swiss-facing operations until such partnerships can be struck.

But Swiss punters will ultimately find ways of bypassing their government’s more dictatorial tendencies to gamble with sites of their own choosing.

While Swiss Internet service providers (ISP) are now required by law to block the domains of unauthorized international operators — the first official blacklist is expected sometime in Q3 — the new laws carry no punishment for individual gamblers who seek to evade these restrictions.

As of last summer, virtual private network (VPN) usage had already begun to surge and will likely keep on growing as the government squeezes the ISPs ever tighter.

As for the non-casino sector, the Comlot lottery regulatory body, which also oversees race and sports betting, reported last month that total lottery revenue hit CHF943m in 2018, a modest 0.4 per cent year-on-year gain.

Lottery draw ticket revenue nudged up 2.8 per cent to CHF362m and wagering rose 8.6 per cent to CHF63m, but the mainstay lottery games segment dipped 2 per cent to CHF517m.

Switzerland issues 4 casino licences

Switzerland issued its first online gambling licences to four local casino operators and their online technology partners in June.

Calvin Ayre reports that Switzerland’s Federal Council rubber stamped their approval of four casinos’ online gambling permits.

The permits were previously approved by the Federal Gaming Commission ahead of the July 1 launch of the country’s regulated online market.

The four caisnos so honoured were the Grand Casino Baden and its sister venue Grand Casino Davos, as well as Grand Casino Lucerne and the Swiss Casinos group’s Pfaffikon venue.

Grand Casino Baden will launch online under its brand, which has for years operated as a free-play site.

The Davos venue has a deal with Belgium’s Ardent Group and will operate under that company’s Casino777 brand.

The Pfaffikon venue has a deal with Playtech while the Lucerne casino will operate under its own mycasino brand.

There are still some hurdles before these first four licences can launch their online operations, as the ESBK must certify the software of each operator’s respective online games.

Switzerland’s new gambling legislation technically took effect on January 1 but the country’s Internet service providers won’t start blocking internationally licenced gambling sites until July 1.

There are 21 licenced casinos in Switzerland, some of which are still awaiting their own licence approval, while others are taking a wait-and-see approach.

This latter strategy is folly, according to Grand Casino Baden chief financial offer Marcel Tobler, who told attendees at this week’s Gaming in Holland conference that operators who pass up this “once in a lifetime opportunity” would regret not staking out an early claim for the loyalties of Switzerland’s online gamblers.

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