How Liechtenstein becomes Europe’s Las Vegas

Liechtenstein The gray concrete block does not really fit into the Liechtenstein panorama. Surrounded by single-family houses, a school and snow-covered hills in the distance, it is a sober counterpoint in the otherwise lovely Alpine idyll. The residents of Balzers have arranged themselves, have got used to the sight of the unadorned colossus.

What makes them less comfortable is the new tenant of the building: a casino operator. “It just doesn’t belong here in our village,” said Michael Konzett. But while he and other residents are suing the casino in Balzers in court, Liechtenstein is happy about the project. Every new gambling temple brings a lot of money to the country – and the current corona crisis will not change that.

Even if all casinos are currently closed: After the shutdown, they will come back – those lucky knights, gamblers and hopeful people who are looking for the kick of quick money. And with their stakes, they will not only fuel the revenues of the casino operators; they will also put millions in the state coffers.

Over the past four years, four casinos have opened in the Principality. The Casino Admiral Ruggell, the Casino Schaanwald Liechtenstein, the Grand Casino Liechtenstein and the Casino Admiral Triesen. Two more openings are planned for this year. This is a lot of gambling for a state that is just 25 kilometers long and has 38,000 inhabitants.

If all six establishments are approved, there is a greater casino density in Liechtenstein than in the gaming paradises Las Vegas, Macau and Monaco. Then about 6300 inhabitants come to a Liechtenstein casino.

A rapid change for a country that most people still remember as Europe’s tax haven. Liechtenstein’s business model has long been well-guarded banking secrecy. People from all over the world hid their money in accounts in the principality in order to avoid the domestic treasury.

It was only when Liechtenstein, in 2008, under massive pressure from Germany, too, committed to the exchange of account data with other countries that the profitable business field suddenly collapsed. Since then, Liechtenstein has been trying to establish itself as a financial center for clean business. A difficult task for which many locations around the world compete.

However, Liechtenstein has now found a substitute for the financial losses that is less expensive than honest banking transactions – and, in the tried and tested manner, is primarily based on tax advantages: casinos. They don’t do much work, take up little space and generate millions of dollars in revenue. A stroke of luck, if it weren’t for the bad reputation of the industry and the corona pandemic.

Game tables orphaned

It is noon on a weekday. While the first guests usually sit in front of the flashing machines in Casino Schaanwald at this time and press the colorful buttons, there is now an eerie silence. And that’s been the case since March 17th.

Only a day after the casino city of Las Vegas had turned into a ghost town, Europe’s gambling center followed: with the lockdown of the economy, the lights in the casinos went out. Since then, not only has the famous “Strip” in Nevada been abandoned, but also the eight gaming tables and 131 slot machines in Schaan.

The 360 ​​guests who otherwise cheer for money and luck in Liechtenstein every day now stay at home. And even if the casinos had opened: 80 percent of customers come from neighboring countries; they would be stopped at the border. It is painful for the industry. Las Vegas, for example, expects the casino industry to cost $ 4.7 billion in revenue each month of lockdown.

Casino Schaanwald

The building glows in different colors at night.

(Photo: Casino Schaanwald)

In Liechtenstein, the damage caused by the corona virus can only be guessed at. “In 2019, we achieved a gross gaming revenue of CHF 60,000 a day, which of course is now lacking,” explains Martin Frommelt, spokesman for the casino operator “Casinos Austria (Liechtenstein) AG”.

Nevertheless: Despite the current difficult situation, Frommelt is convinced of his company’s business model. And so the planned new openings will not be shaken. “Here in the four-country corner there is very high purchasing power, which is good for us,” says Frommelt.

Similar to black money in the past, the new Liechtenstein business model is primarily based on attracting money from neighboring countries. In 2018, the casino generated gross gaming revenue of CHF 19 million. After deducting the gaming tax of approximately 35 percent, a two percent supervisory tax and the corporate tax of 12.5 percent, there was still a decent amount. How much exactly, she reveals Casinos Austria AG not. Since she wants to open another casino in Liechtenstein this year, the result does not seem to be that bad.

For the principality itself, the gambling houses are also a million dollar business. The casinos pay the Principality 17.5 to 40 percent of gross gaming revenues. In 2018, 19 million Swiss francs were raised – paid by only two casinos.

The other two didn’t open until the end of the year, so their contribution is negligible. The country expects around CHF 29 million in 2019, the exact figures have not yet been determined.

Nevertheless: Liechtenstein is a tax haven for casinos compared to the neighboring countries. Germany collects around 60 percent of gross gaming revenues on average, Switzerland between 40 and 80, Austria 30. A clear location advantage for Liechtenstein that many casino operators have recognized.

Michael Konzett (49) and his 70-year-old neighbor Benno Büchel grew up in the Principality and are watching this development with concern. “This is a competition and we are bearing the collateral damage,” explains Büchel. Together with lawyer Thomas Geiger, they sit at the rustic wooden table in Konzett’s living room.

It is cozy here, the furnishings mixed together. A glass chandelier hangs above the table, a green sofa landscape fills the corner of the room and a colorfully painted rocking chair is in the middle of the room. Konzett pushes everyone a red and white dotted cup and pours coffee before the three begin their story. You look at the concrete building through the window into which the casino wants to rent.

Technology and glamor

There are 131 machines and eight gaming tables in Casino Schaanwald.

(Photo: Casino Schaanwald Liechtenstein)

Her greatest fears have not yet materialized. Only the supermarket in the basement opened the doors, the Casino Balzers on the first floor did not, because the legal dispute has not yet ended. Büchel sounds determined. “It’s a fight between David and Goliath,” he says, “but David isn’t intimidated.”

They are currently waiting for the final decision of the Administrative Court as the last resort, in all the previous ones they have lost. Konzett shakes his head. “I do not get it. Liechtenstein is actually very conservative. But when it comes to money, we’re amazingly creative here. ”

Gambling was prohibited in Liechtenstein until 2009. It was only after the tax scandal that the government and state parliament, together with the Princely House, lifted the ban in order to open up new business areas. In 2016, they reformed the gaming law again and opened the casino market to all applicants who can demonstrate the necessary access requirements: a good reputation, the legal origin of the funds available, independence of the management, transparency and monitoring of gaming operations and cash flows as well as the necessary ones Expertise. Applicants must also submit a social concept.

“Nobody in politics really expected the subsequent rush,” says Günther Fritz, party chairman of the Patriotic Union (VU), which is considered to be conservative and economically liberal. “But the plan for a new business area has worked.”

In addition to the Progressive Citizens’ Party, the VU is one of the two major parties in Liechtenstein. Together they have formed the government in a coalition since 2005 and were therefore in power when the ban on gambling was lifted and later reformed.

While the country is happy about the new income, the banking association is watching the casino market critically. It is still well remembered how much being a tax haven ruined the country’s reputation. Credit institutions are now afraid that the gaming market could have a similar effect. After all, the casino industry is attached to the image of washing illegal money in at the gaming table.

“It remains crucial for us and the financial center that the high level of international recognition acquired in recent years has not been damaged,” explains Simon Triebelhorn, managing director of the banking association. Despite the persistently difficult environment, the money houses had developed positively and the reputation of the square had improved noticeably. The booming casino market “must not have a negative impact on this good reputation,” he warns. Liechtenstein was ultimately dependent on international relations and exports.

Katharina Gey, head of the Office for Economic Affairs, cannot share the concerns. “One shouldn’t forget that Liechtenstein is above all an industrialized country,” she says, listing some of the domestic companies.

Katharina Gey (Head of the Office for Economic Affairs)

“One shouldn’t forget that Liechtenstein is above all an industrialized country.”

(Photo: Handelsblatt / Hannah Steinharter)

Liechtenstein’s flagship company Hilti made it out of the Schaan community onto the world stage. Liechtenstein’s total tax revenue in 2018 was around CHF 924 million. The 19 million from the gaming taxes of the casinos only make up two percent.

“This is because over 40 percent of the added value comes from the industrial sector and 25 percent from the financial center,” explains Gey. “Industry is the backbone of Liechtenstein.” Anti-money laundering would be actively pursued, because the Liechtenstein financial market authority monitors the casinos according to strict EU guidelines.

And finally, the market regulates itself at some point, so you don’t have to intervene and limit the number of casinos – especially since the admission requirements and ongoing supervision in Liechtenstein are at least as strict as the control mechanisms of countries that have a concession system.

The citizens of Balzers can no longer hear these arguments: “With the casino, we would have 365 days a year operation on our doorstep,” argues Konzett. “There is also noise and a shortage of parking spaces.” Together with nine other parties, Konzett, Büchel and lawyer Geiger are publicly opposed to the casino plan; and actually there are many more against it.

But whoever goes on the barricades comes under pressure himself. Lawyer Geiger flips through the mess of papers, looks for the right position and reads from an opposing attorney’s letter: “We would like to consider that a time delay will result in damage in the millions. Both our client (editor’s note: the real estate company ITW) and future tenants (editor’s note: casino) will not hesitate to claim the damage against the responsible parties. “

Geiger puts the letter back on the stack – a threat of damages in the millions to a few citizens from Balzers.

Castle Vaduz

The symbol of the capital and seat of the Princely House of Liechtenstein.

(Photo: Your_Photo_Today)

Martin Meyer, CEO of ITW, does not really want to comment on the casino topic. For the real estate operator there is “no need for communication”, it says. As a former economics minister and deputy head of government, he is familiar with the Gambling Act. The casino ban was abolished in 2010 under the government of which he was the deputy chief. Today Meyer sits on the other side and rents premises to casino operators.

When asked about the citizens’ allegations of damages, he then intervened. “We reject the accusation of the threat very clearly,” Meyer replies by email. The ITW would only have decided on the basis of the history at this location “to demonstrate in good time and transparently that we will also take legal action if necessary and assert the economic damage caused by the deliberate delays of the property owners against the persons responsible”.

Meyer thus refers to a previous legal dispute between residents and Swiss Post, which wanted to move into the gray concrete block in 2011. As the building is located in the industrial and commercial zone and the post office counts as a service company, the municipal council had to issue an exceptional permit.

The citizens legally defended themselves against this permit and lost it through all instances. The post office didn’t move to the concrete building anyway, they had already looked for another location in the meantime.

Eight years later, the ITW reminds a lot of the controversy from back then. The casino is also considered a service company and received a special permit from the local council, against which the citizens complained. “Obviously, this is not about a casino as such,” says Meyer. The ITW will not tolerate a delay tactic.

Lawyer Geiger, on the other hand, does not understand the anger of the other side. “It’s your right as a resident if you see a project violating your neighborhood rights,” he says. “The traffic and parking space situation is problematic at this location and cannot be improved by structural measures.”

And while the ITW would have had the opportunity to present the construction project to the local council, the neighbors had not been given this opportunity. “The fact that this one-sided presentation makes an independent and unbiased decision impossible already results from general life experience,” explains Geiger, who lodged a complaint for the citizens on the grounds that their right to be heard had been violated.

The Liechtenstein Gambling Act is the basis for the approval of many casinos. Some parties are therefore trying to limit the consequences of the 2016 law reform again. The VU submitted a “Postulate for the design of the size-compatible Liechtenstein casino landscape” to the government to make access to the market more difficult and to tie the income from the gaming industry to a purpose. “For example, for old-age provision in order to increase the popularity of casinos among the population.” However, both were rejected.

The Social Democratic opposition party Free List also wanted to put a stop to this development and spoke out in favor of an increase in gaming taxes. The VU resisted this. “You cannot expect actors in a liberal market to suddenly change such things,” explains Fritz.

Despite the corona crisis: Without stricter rules such as in Austria, Switzerland or Germany, other casinos will settle in the Principality and let Liechtenstein participate in the business. This is a terrifying scenario for Konzett. “The majority of the guests go back across the border poorer than they came here. At some point it falls on the feet of the country. “

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All charities suffer from social distancing, corporate closings and curfews that have been enacted to control the spread of the new coronavirus. However, non-profit organizations in South Jersey that care for already vulnerable people are going through a particularly challenging time as the money they expected to have in hand falls from canceled or postponed spring fundraisers.

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Mayor of Deadwood, casinos working together on the cornavirus solution Local

DEADWOOD | In an open letter released Monday by the Deadwood Chamber of Commerce, Mayor David R. Ruth, Jr., asked Deadwood casino operators to shut down their businesses to help curb the potential spread of the coronavirus.

Ruth called for strong measures to include the closure of restaurant areas, limiting the restaurant service to sidewalk, drive-through and takeaway options; closure of gaming activities; and immediately ceasing on-site liquor sales until the pandemic threat has passed.

“While I recognize that these decisions are difficult and impact many employees and their families, in addition to the tension they exert on you as entrepreneurs, just this morning (Monday) the US surgeon general warned that the epidemic of coronavirus will get worse this week “and said that” people across the country are not taking the threat seriously enough “.

“The time to take things more seriously is now,” said Ruth.

Ruth said that many casino operators contacted him last week asking for the need to close during the outbreak.

“To date, I haven’t provided you with a directive,” wrote Ruth.

However, over the weekend, many Deadwood companies, including Deadwood Mountain Grand and Old Style Saloon # 10, announced the closure until further notice in voluntary response to the outbreak.


Why are Indian casinos out of order? | Reply Man

Why are Indian casinos out of order? Do you think about the ease of spread of the disease, coins, machines, cards, coherent movement of people?

Indian communities, including the Indian community Prairie Island north of Red Wing, are sovereign nations, so they are out of any state or federal arrest rules, but not out of the game in terms of the global pandemic.

Prairie Island declared a state of emergency on Wednesday, closing the resort and casino for two weeks and canceling all community events.

“The decision to temporarily close casino operations has enormous potential consequences for the Tribe. However, the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic requires us to do our part to slow its initial spread over the next 14 critical days, “said Shelley Buck, president of the tribal council.

Other nearby casinos have followed suit. Diamond Jo Casino in Northwood, Iowa is closed until further notice. Mystic Lake, in Prior Lake, suspended operations until April 1st. The major casinos of Mille Lacs and Hinckley announced a 14-day closure on Monday, but conditions will be reevaluated before a reopening date is announced.

It is not necessary to gamble with COVID-19.


Illinois casinos will remain closed until April 8 – NBC Chicago

All Illinois casinos will remain closed until April 8 amid the coronavirus pandemic, according to a press release issued Friday by the Illinois Gaming Board.

The state’s 10 casinos, which closed on Monday, were expected to remain closed for 14 days. However, the IGB extended the closing on Friday, shortly after the J.B. Pritzker had announced a home stay order for all of Illinois.

“The health and safety of customers, gaming industry employees, Gaming Board staff and everyone else in Illinois is the Gaming Board’s top priority,” IGB officials said in a press release.

The IGB is monitoring developments related to the outbreak and will provide the necessary updates, the press release said.


The Lucky Eagle casino closes amid the Coronavirus epidemic and will pay staff until the end of the month Community

Lisa Miles, CEO of Lucky Eagle Casino & Hotel, announced on Monday that the casino will suspend operations on Tuesday at 11.59pm. – a decision in line with the gambling industry as casinos across the country started closing stores earlier in the week.

Although the decision was in line with the national trend, Miles said that the casino and the Chehalis Tribe did their due diligence.

“Honestly, I’d call it an independent decision,” said Miles. “I will tell you that our tribal council and our government met on Monday morning before several others and we made the decision to close and it is based solely on the safety of the tribal members and our guests, our team members and the club. Community.”

Tribal casinos surrounding Lucky Eagle casino also suspended operations, including the Emerald Queen casinos in Tacoma and Fife at midnight on Monday, the Nisqually Red Wind casino in Olympia on Tuesday at 4 am and the Little Creek casino in Shelton on Tuesday at 14:00.

“I think we can all admit that this environment has changed hour by hour with respect to the day or week,” said Miles. “We are currently planning the closure and reopening of April 1st. We are only monitoring open cases and information from the World Health Organization and the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).”

Miles said that Lucky Eagle Casino employees have not been laid off and will be paid by the end of the month. According to a Lucky Eagle Casino press release, employees will be paid at their base rate based on the average hours worked in the previous four weeks.

“We are also encouraging (employees) to consider unemployment only because of the uncertainty of what this will be like from a long-term perspective,” said Miles. “We are trying to provide them with as much information as possible to help them in this moment of uncertainty.”

Miles added that asking employees to consider unemployment is purely a proactive measure with the Washington Department of Occupational Security flooded with unemployment claims.

Due to the evolving nature of the coronavirus epidemic, Miles declined to talk about what’s next in terms of the casino contingency plan if he deems it necessary to remain closed on April 1st.

“Unfortunately, this world is changing rapidly, day after day,” he said. “The tribe, the casino, we are having those conversations, no decisions have been made. We are trying to plan the contingencies but there is nothing I can announce right now because no decisions have been made. We care a lot about the vitality of the tribe Chehalis, we care about the vitality of our team members and their families … We are a very large employer in this sector. “


The casino confirms the target of divestitures

PARIS, March 20 (Reuters) – The French retailer Casino’s deal to sell most of the Leader Price discount stores in France to Aldi France means that it has now eliminated € 2.8 billion ($ 3 billion) in its business. debt relief plan, he said on Friday.

Casino, which is now ahead of its goal of delivering € 2.5 billion in asset sales by the end of March, has also confirmed its goal of reaching a total of € 4.5 billion in asset sales. by the end of the first quarter of 2021. ($ 1 = 0.9278 euros)

Reporting by Dominique Vidalon
Editing by David Goodman

Our standards:Thomson Reuters’ principles of trust.


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