Roll the dice and spin that wheel: business is booming in casinos across Switzerland. And nowhere is it doing better than at the recently refurbished Casino de Montreux.

Author:O'Brien, Tom
Position:Business
 
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Gambling was, until recently, a serious no-no here in Switzerland. It was only in 1993 that Swiss voters agreed to lift a ban on gambling--a ban that dated back to 1928.

Over the past two years we've seen the opening of some seven grand casinos, in Lucerne, Bern, Baden, Lugano, Montreux, Basel and St Gallen.

These 'Class A' casinos are under no obligation to impose an upper limit on bets placed at their rabies. Meanwhile, there are a further 14 smaller casinos in a number of famous 'alpine resorts, including St. Moritz and Zermatt.

One of the winners of a 'Class A' license was the Lucien Barriere Group. This group has developed the casino operation in Montreux in cooperation not only with local investors, but also the local government.

More Money for Switzerland

The government's reasons to open up the gambling scene were spurred by a desire to see more of those disposable gamblers' francs landing in Swiss coffers, rather than wending their way to casinos in France of the United States.

According to analysts, the industry will be worth around CHF1 billion in Switzerland, although more conservative estimates set the figure at CHF600 million.

In fact, casinos that hand-over up to 50 per cent of their revenue in taxes, depending on their size, are expected to contribute at least CHF150 million a year to Switzerland's hard-pressed welfare system.

Town halls across Switzerland have been keen to attract those high-rolling gamblers--when they're not at the gaming tables--into their community's hotels and restaurants.

Stiff Competition

In the case of Casino de Montreux, some 355,000 visitors have crossed the threshold of between the reopening in February 2003 to the end of last year.

The general manager of the Casino de Montreux, Gilles Meillet, tells Swiss News that they have managed to beat stiff regional competition due to their strong team, professional approach and good strategy.

"We were really proud to win the 'A' licence. For us, this means that our preparation was the best and our work was recognised," says Meillet. "We opened the casino in two parts; the first opening was in February of last year, with the grand opening at the end of last June."

Winning the 'Class A' licence meant that Montreux beefed up what it had on offer, pulling customers away from nearby French competitors, who are already reporting a slowdown in business since the Montreux casino has been working at full capacity.

The clients in Montreux are mostly Swiss, with the...

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