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Swiss casinos and lotteries have jackpot year

Keeping an eye on the balls: the Swiss like their chances of winning Keystone

The Swiss spent more on lotteries and gambling in 2006 than ever before, parting with SFr2.8 billion ($2.31 billion).

But Swiss lotteries suffered from the popularity of the massive European lottery, Euro Millions, which last year became the most popular game among Swiss punters.

The Swiss staked an average of SFr374 in 2006, up from SFr368 in 2005. This growth is part of a trend that has continued unabated since the turn of the century, according to the Federal Justice Office, which published the figures on Monday.

The Euro Millions game and its huge jackpots took first place in the popularity stakes, with sales increasing by 75 per cent to reach SFr545 million. Swiss Lotto suffered from the competition, losing more than a third of its turnover, which dropped to SFr413 million.

Sports bets with Sporttip also fell slightly and were worth SFr39 million last year.

Under Swiss law, all profits made from gambling and lotteries are turned over for social or public utility causes. No less than SFr586 million was transferred to cantonal lottery and sports funds, as well as sporting associations. This amount was up from SFr491 million in 2005.

Switzerland’s 19 casinos paid a total of SFr495 million in taxes last year, funds that were used to prop up the national pension system or that went directly to the cantons with smaller gaming facilities.

Casino battle royale

The casinos’ profits (SFr955 million) were also higher than the lotteries in 2006 for the first time, thanks mostly to the popularity of slot machines. Despite revenue from gaming table stagnating, growth was more than nine per cent, outstripping that of the lotteries.

The lotteries and casinos are engaged in a fierce battle for the content of customers’ wallets.

The lotteries have been betting part of their future revenue on electronic versions of their products, but the use of this type of machine has been banned outside casinos.

Switzerland’s lotteries reckon that the electronic market could represent up to 80 per cent of their revenue in the future, as sales of more traditional products decline. Earlier this year they appealed the ban with the backing of the cantons.

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Swiss voters agreed to lift a ban on gambling in a referendum in 1993.

The Swiss government granted the first round of concessions allowing casinos to be set up in 2001.

The authorities awarded so-called Class A licences to seven casinos, all of which are allowed to operate with no upper limit imposed on bets. The others are included in the B category, with limits on betting.

More than 16,000 people have been barred from the country’s gaming houses, most of them because of gambling addiction.

The casino market is considered to be saturated, and new concessions have been frozen for the time being.

Europeans spend on average one per cent of their household budget on gambling and lotteries.
Slovenians spent the most with 2.2%, ahead of Spain and Malta.
In Britain, the figure reaches 1.2%, 1% in Austria, 0.9% in France and Italy and 0.8% in Germany.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR