Switzerland, or more formally, the Swiss Confederation, isn’t usually the first place that comes to mind when you think of gambling. The country is most commonly associated with ski resorts, the Montreux Jazz festival and a banking system which places a premium on secrecy. It’s a country with a high standard of living and surprisingly, even in the midst of all this wealth, the gambling industry in general and online gambling in particular are still in the early stages.

Gambling Under Swiss Law

Gambling was illegal in Switzerland between 1921 and 1993, when limited stakes casino gambling was legalized, followed a few years later by the legalization of unlimited stakes casino gambling. The gambling industry quickly grew, with nearly 19 casinos and 11 racetracks in operation around the country. Canton-level lotteries have emerged since 1993, although a national lottery is still prohibited under the 1921 laws which banned gambling in the first place. These lotteries are operated by two different companies, each of which has been part of the Euromillions lottery since 2004 and provide some sports betting options to Swiss citizens as well as lottery games.

At this time, online gambling has not yet been legalized in Switzerland, although it appears that change is underway. The government is examining possible regulatory frameworks for legalized online gambling in the country and a review was begun in late 2013. Although online gambling is technically illegal in the Swiss Confederation, the ban is basically unenforced and many Swiss citizens access online gambling sites – and the country’s banking laws allow funds to easily be transferred to online casinos and bookmakers abroad.

Gambling Trends In Switzerland

Other than canton lotteries, casino gaming and horse racing, the Swiss are similar to their European neighbors in their enthusiasm for football and betting on the sport is common. Wagering on rugby matches is also common given the popularity of the sport in this country.

Somewhat unique to Switzerland is betting on skiing and other winter sports, although because of the country’s wealth of world class slopes and ski resorts, it makes sense.
Poker is also a major element of the gambling industry in Switzerland. The Grand Casino Bern and Gran Casino Baden have both hosted the Swiss Open Poker Championship, which has been going since 2006 and attracts top players from across Europe.

Where Gambling Is Headed In Switzerland

Gambling has been very lucrative for the country, with the government collecting healthy taxes on casino gaming and charitable spending out of lottery revenues. Even as some Swiss citizens raise concerns about the social effects of gambling, it seems that the full legalization of gambling in Switzerland is only a matter of time.