June 2, 2021

Player protection inside and outside the casino

CEO blog dated June 2, 2021

by Hans-Ulrich Rihs, Swiss Casinos’ Chairman of the Board and Marc Baumann, CEO of Swiss Casinos

With the Introductory Act of the Federal Gambling Act (EG BGS), slot machines in restaurants will once again be authorized within the canton of Zurich. The prevention tax of 10% is welcome, but is no replacement for effective player protections. What many don’t know is that with a “no” vote, slot machines will still be permitted regardless – but without the tax, as the Federal Gambling Act will continue to apply. We consider it important that the canton, in the case of a “yes” to the EG BGS, will introduce adequate player protection measures. 

Taking a look back

In 1990, Zurich citizens banned slot machines from restaurants and arcades. The situation was no longer socially acceptable – many people were left overwhelmed by an uncontrollable gambling addiction. Swiss Casinos’ predecessors were themselves effected by the ban at the time, and had to make drastic changes after the decree.

However, from a political – and above all, social – point of view, it was clear that regulated, monitored gambling should be authorized, as there are more problems stemming from illegal settings than regulated ones.

Shortly before the new millennium, citizens approved Article 106 of the Swiss Constitution, which allowed for the operation of casinos. Two points were particularly important for this: firstly, there needed to be strict and monitored player protection measures, and secondly, a significant percentage of gaming revenues (up to 80%) needed to be distributed to the AHV.

Casinos have existed in Switzerland since 2002. Their offerings are broad and fully meet all needs; at the same time, there has been sustained support for people with problematic gambling behavior. Together with specialized addiction centers, risk cases are individually evaluated with extreme care, and those affected are given support. With this experience, the casino operators have learned a lot and have become experts in dealing with gambling over the years.

In 2019, the new Gambling Act came into force, which allowed online gambling for the first time. The same strict requirements that exist for physical casinos also continue to apply online: here, players are also supported so as to avoid personal harm. The law also proved that the majority of Swiss players could be led away from illegal and socially unacceptable foreign platforms. Today, they’re playing in a regulated environment and a significant portion of the revenues flow to the AHV.

Player protection

Player protection is an important topic for casino operators. Over the last few years, Swiss Casinos has invested significantly in player protection and has gained a wealth of competence and expertise in the process. We’ve learned that there are people who struggle to maintain a healthy relationship with gambling. However, our expert employees, in cooperation with the addiction center RADIX, are successfully combating this every day. Additionally, there are severe sanctions for misconduct and the reputational damage is significant.

Significant risks with the new Gambling Act in the canton of Zurich

In the canton of Zurich, the new Introductory Act to the Federal Gambling Act would reauthorize slot machines in restaurants, arcades and more. Consequently, we risk falling back into the situation that existed before 1990: in side rooms and back rooms, corridors and more, people would gamble away their savings on slot machines in an unregulated, unmonitored way.

In restaurants, it is so-called “skill-based slot machines” that would be authorized, as opposed to the games of chance you can find in casinos. However, research has shown that impulsive players in particular cannot recognize a difference between the two. These machines are particularly appealing to those at risk of a gambling addition and entice them into damaging gambling. Addiction centers confirm that those impacted by a gambling addiction have stated that these machines present a considerable risk to them. Additionally, no youth protection measures are ensured. 

Open for the free market – but with effective player protections

We stand for a free and competitive market, as that is the only way to ensure innovation and quality with a reasonable price-performance ratio. However, there are products and services that can cause social, societal or environmental damage. In such cases, it’s necessary that the state acts as a regulator to minimize excesses. 

Swiss casino operators take their responsibility very seriously and can rightly be characterized as setting an example internationally. The unregulated authorization of slot machines in restaurants contradicts the spirit of the law and allows for unhealthy developments. We therefore regret that the new law, in its authorization of slot machines, did not simultaneously include stronger player protection measures.

There is absolutely a need for effective player protection

  • With a vote of “yes”, slot machines will be authorized in restaurants. In that case, it’s important that the canton plans for effective player protection measures.
  • With a “no” vote, slot machines would nevertheless be authorized, but without regulation. This would call for the rapid introduction of a new law with effective player protections.