Switzerland is in the process of liberalising its gambling laws. Many fear that upping the betting limit will create more gambling addicts, but a leading psychiatrist says bigger bets might actually prove beneficial.
Since April, companies have been allowed to apply for a limited number of licences for high-stake casinos. Currently the maximum betting limit in Switzerland is SFr5 ($2.91).
The prospect of Las Vegas-style gambling has many businesses and cities, which are bidding for licences, licking their lips.
And, ironically, they may have found an unlikely supporter in the form of Wulf Rössler, a psychiatric specialist in the field of gambling addiction at the University Hospital in Zurich.
He says it's true that the new casinos could exacerbate problems facing gambling addicts. "There are around 200,000 pathological gamblers already in Switzerland and the new larger casinos pose a danger to these people," he told swissinfo.
But he also feels that the new gaming laws might be an improvement on the current situation, which encourages illegal high-stake gambling.
"If there is a good thing to the new legislation it's that we can hopefully catch illegal gamblers by bringing them into the new casinos. If they need help, we'll be able to assist them," Rössler explained.
Under the new legislation, the high-stake casinos will be obliged to offer advice and support for gambling addicts.
"Gambling is not a bad thing, it is part of human nature," added Rössler. "But if it becomes pathological it is bad for the people who do it and the consequences for them could be far reaching."
Rössler's clinic works with gambling addicts across canton Zurich. He finds the best treatment is to expose the reality of casinos to pathological gamblers.
"With seriously addicted gamblers we actually take them out gambling and show them just how it all works," he explained. "With those addicted to slot machines, we take away the mystery by opening up the machines so the gamblers can see that it's very clear that you always lose."
by Tom O'Brien
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