While six establishments have opened since 2017, attracting a crowd of foreign tourists, the inhabitants of the “Las Vegas of the Alps” must decide, this Sunday, on their possible closure. The government opposes such a measure.
Is this the end of the Las Vegas des Alpes »? The inhabitants of Liechtenstein must decide this Sunday by referendum on the closure of the six casinos in the principality landlocked between Switzerland and Austria.
These establishments have all opened since 2017, taking advantage of the modification of a law which made gambling legal. Since then, the country has welcomed crowds of German, Swiss and Austrian tourists who have come to try their luck at the slot machines and poker tables. The referendum and the signatures necessary to activate it were initiated by the group IG VolksMeinung, formed to fight against “the flooding of the casinos». «We don’t want to establish ourselves as a casino and poker hotspot in the middle of Europesaid one of its members, Guido Meier, when discussing the upcoming vote. “It’s a big reputational issue.»
$54.51 million in taxes collected
If the ban wins, the country’s casinos will have to close their doors within five years. Some large foreign gambling operators are behind some of Liechtenstein’s casinos, such as Austria’s Novomatic AG, whose sister company Gryphon Invest AG indirectly owns majority stakes in half of Liechtenstein’s gambling houses. “We hope that voters will take the advice of the two main parties, as well as the economic chamber and other institutions, and recognize that a well-regulated market is better than an outright ban.Gryphon Invest AG told Reuters.
It is clear that this emerging industry brings a significant income to the country of 38,000 inhabitants. In 2022, taxes brought in by trips made by mainly foreign visitors to Liechtenstein casinos generated 50 million Swiss francs, or $54.51 million. “These are certainly incomes that are relevant to our budgetsaid Deputy Prime Minister Sabine Monauni.
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For its part, the government has effectively encouraged the public to vote against the proposed ban, which the Deputy Prime Minister describes as “ too radical, too excessive and not solving the problem of gambling addiction.”We want to continue to allow gambling in Liechtenstein and that is why we now have to find a balance between measures that reduce activity but at the same time do not totally destroy the market.“, she said.