Land-based gambling

Types

What types of land-based gambling are permitted in your jurisdiction, and is gambling regulated at a national or subnational level?

Land-based casinos can be operated by private corporate actors. Casinos usually offer games such as slot machines, roulette, blackjack and poker. However, a licence is required for the operation of a facility (such as a casino). The casino licensing regime is regulated by the Money Gaming Act (MGA). The MGA differentiates between two different types of casino licences in terms of the possible types of games of chance to be offered, the winnings and the maximum number of slot machines as follows:

  • A-type licenced casinos are casinos with no limits in stakes and may offer 14 different table games with unlimited stakes, jackpots and maximum winnings at all slot machines. An A-type casino is only allowed in an area with a population of at least 1 million people.
  • B-type licenced casinos are usually spa or resort casinos, with a maximum of three kinds of table games and limited stakes, jackpots and maximum winnings at all slot machines. The maximum number of gambling tables operated per casino is three. The number of slot machines is limited to 250. While for A-type casinos there are no limitations as per the maximum stake, the limit per stake in B-type casinos is 25 Swiss francs and the maximum jackpot offered is 25,000 Swiss francs.

 

Casinos with a terrestrial licence can apply for an extension of their licence to offer online gambling services. Under the old laws, only the state-owned Swisslos and Loterie Romande have obtained the necessary licences for betting and lottery services. This has not changed under the MGA; the lottery and betting duopoly continues to exist.

Establishment licensing

Please describe the licensing criteria to operate land-based gambling of each type or classification. Does your jurisdiction limit the number of available licences?

Casino licence

Licences for land-based gambling can only be granted in the following circumstances:

  • the applicant:
    • is a public limited company under Swiss law and its share capital is divided into registered shares;
    • presents a safety concept and a social concept;
    • submits economic viability calculations showing that the casino is economically viable;
    • sets out the measures to be taken to create the conditions for the proper assessment of the casino levy; or
    • presents the economic benefits of the casino for the siting region in a report;
  • the applicant and its most important business partners as well as the beneficial owners of the shares and the beneficial owners of the shares:
    • enjoy a good reputation; or
    • provide assurance of proper business operations and independent management;
  • the applicant and the holders of units and the beneficial owners of the units and, at the request of Swiss Federal Gaming Board (SFGB), the most important business partners have sufficient own funds and can prove the legal origin of the funds available;
  • the statutes, the organisational structure and procedures and the contractual obligations guarantee the proper and independent conduct of the casino’s business; and
  • the canton and municipality in which the location is situated should support the operation of a casino.

 

The Swiss Federal Council decides on the number of casino licences available, and also defines the geographical locations of the casinos. To date, there are 21 licensed casinos in Switzerland.

 

License for large games

Comlot grants the licences for large games organisers. According to article 22 of the MGA, the operator must meet the following requirements for an intercantonal licence:

  • a legal person under Swiss law;
  • has a good reputation;
  • presents its economic situation;
  • discloses any financial or other investments in other companies;
  • proves the lawful origin of the funds available;
  • guarantees an impeccable management and its external independence;
  • has sufficient funds and guarantees that the winnings will be paid out to the players;
  • has a safety and a social concept; and
  • ensures that operating costs, in particular advertising and wages, are proportionate to the resources made available for charitable purposes.

 

However, according to article 23 of the MGA and current practice, only Swisslos and Loterie Romande are licensed to provide intercantonal lottery and sports betting services. Additional licences are not foreseen.

 

License for small games

Small games operators can submit their application for a cantonal licence to the respective cantonal authority.

Director, officer and owner licensing

Must individual directors, officers or owners of licensees also be licensed or reviewed for suitability?

The licence is issued to the casino operator (corporate entity). Individuals such as the applicant, the most important business partners as well as the beneficial owners of the shares from the corporate entity must demonstrate their good reputation and proper business conduct, in accordance with article 8 lit. b of the MGA.

 

Location

May a gambling location be part of a resort, restaurant or other multi-purpose location? What limitations apply?

Yes. There are no special regulations.

Passive/institutional ownership

Are there provisions for passive or institutional ownership that allow for exemption or modification of licensing requirements?

No.

Responsible gambling

What responsible gambling obligations apply to licensees?

The following persons are subject to a general ban on land-based gambling, according to article 52 of the MGA:

  • persons under 18 years of age;
  • persons who are suspended from casinos;
  • board members or members of the SFGB;
  • casino employees who are involved in the daily business;
  • members of the board of directors and management of companies manufacturing or trading gaming equipment; and
  • members of the board of directors of casinos.

 

Each casino and organiser of large-scale games must have a social concept (article 76 of the MGA). Furthermore, organisers must be obliged to take appropriate measures to protect players from excessive gambling. The measures are based on the risk potential of the casino game in question. Players who are insolvent or fail to meet their financial obligations must be blocked from casino gaming operations. The same applies to players who risk wagers that are disproportionate compared with their income or their assets, as well as players who negatively affect the operation of a casino. In its assessment, the casino may rely on the available data and assumptions but is not allowed to investigate a player’s financial circumstances. In addition, the player may also apply for self-blockage. The casino must register the blocked players and notify all of the other casinos in Switzerland. However, the blockage must be cancelled as soon as the reason for the blockage has ceased to exist. Finally, casinos are not allowed to grant loans or advances to players.

In short, the social protection regulations and conditions of accreditation fall into the following categories of effective prevention of problem gambling and gambling addiction:

  • information on gambling addiction and responsible gambling;
  • early diagnosis of at-risk individuals;
  • staff training and awareness-raising (organisers and sales outlets);
  • product concepts and designs that mitigate risk;
  • restrictions in terms of age, access and stakes;
  • imposition of bans; and
  • supervision of the implementation and impact of social protection regulations.
Taxes

What type of tax and what tax rate applies to each form of lawful land-based gambling activity?

Terrestrial casinosCasinos

In accordance with the Swiss Constitution, casinos are subject to tax based on their gross gambling revenues. The tax rate can vary from between 40 per cent and 80 per cent of gross gaming revenues, but casinos can request a reduction in the rate in the case of exceptional economic conditions. Generally, casinos pay 40 per cent tax on gross revenues up to 10 million Swiss francs. If gross revenues exceed this sum, the tax rate rises by 0.5 per cent for every million Swiss francs. The federal government can change the current level of taxation rates up to 80 per cent (article 120 of the MGA and article 114 of the Money Gaming Ordinance (MGO)).

 

Players

For the players, casino winnings are free of individual taxes if the gains result from licensed Swiss casinos. In contrast, gains from non-permitted casino games are not tax exempt but subject to income tax. For winnings from large-scale games (automated or intercantonal games; eg, lotteries and sports betting such as Swiss Lotto, EuroMillions, Swisslos etc), a tax exemption of 1 million Swiss francs is granted. Winnings of more than 1 million Swiss francs are subject to withholding and income tax at the federal level if the gambling activity is performed in Switzerland. The withholding tax amount is subtracted automatically when the betting or lottery winnings are paid out. However, it can then be reclaimed by the player if the winnings are declared as taxable income on their individual tax return. Applicable tax rates vary substantially depending on total income and residence. Winnings from small games (not automated, not carried out online and not intercantonal; eg, lottery gymnastics clubs, local sports bets, small poker tournaments) are tax-free insofar as they are permitted under the MGA.

Lotteries and skill games for sales promotion are tax-free up to 1,000 Swiss francs (tax exemption limit).

Profits from illegal or unauthorised games are subject to income tax, but not to withholding tax. Depending on the canton, different tax-free amounts and deductions may apply. Applicable tax rates vary substantially depending on total income and residence.

 

Operators

Cantons use the net winnings from lotteries and sports betting entirely for charitable purposes, namely in the areas of culture, social affairs and sport (article 125 of the MGA).