Switzerland has long been one of Europe’s most popular tourist destinations, with the bulk of travelers coming for the breathtaking scenery and extensive ski facilities, available at resorts such as Zermatt and St. Moritz. Prior to the year 2000, casinos did not form part of the Swiss tourist experience, but following the liberalization of the law in that year, casino operators were quick to step in, and Switzerland casinos are now increasingly popular with both Swiss citizens and foreign visitors alike. Indeed, it is estimated that Switzerland has the highest ratio of casinos per head of population of any major nation.
Until 1993, gambling was banned by law in Switzerland, but this was repealed in a referendum by the Swiss people, and the first Switzerland casinos opened in 2002. There are now 19 casinos in Switzerland, categorized according to their size; however, even the biggest Switzerland casino, located in the Grand Hotel in Lugano, has a relatively modest 26 gaming tables and around 350 slot machines, and many others are significantly smaller. Most are situated in popular resorts and tourist destinations, in order to take advantage of the demand for gambling that large numbers of foreign visitors inevitably bring.
In addition, there is a fairly stringent set of regulations that govern the Switzerland casino business, which are designed to help maximize the positive effects of gambling in the context of a socially responsible regulation regime. Swiss casinos are required to train their staff in recognizing and helping those who are gambling beyond their means, and they are also obliged to provide information detailing the potential risks of excessive gambling to all customers. Customers are also required to show identification when entering casinos, but unlike many other European countries, there is no requirement for patrons to be registered with the casino.
Apart from the aforementioned Grand Hotel Lugano, which is the largest of all Switzerland casinos, there are also several other large casinos in the country, situated in Baden, Basel, Bern, Luzern, Montreux, and St. Gallen. Thirteen smaller casinos are spread around Switzerland, including facilities in Davos, Interlaken, and St. Moritz. These casinos cater to local and international visitors, in particular those visiting Switzerland for winter sports, but also to the business traveler. The Switzerland casino business is a relatively small but growing sector of the economy, and visitors to the country will find the facilities ultra modern and extremely welcoming.