January 29th, 2023 saw Liechtenstein voters turn down a proposed ban on casinos in a referendum that has divided the opinions of the 40,000 residents of the microstate.
The Principality, which punters often regard as the “Las Vegas of the Alps”, currently hosts six active casino operators situated on a territory that is about a tenth the size of London and has a population of under 40,000 people.
The proposed casino ban was put to a referendum that took place on January 29th. Had it passed, the casinos on the territory of Liechtenstein would be forced to cease operation within five years. Fortunately for casino gambling lovers, the arguments in favor of the ban, including potential gambling addiction and damage to the reputation of the country’s wealthy nation, were rejected by 73% of local residents who said they preferred to leave the casinos untouched. According to the official count of the referendum published online, about 70% of Liechtenstein residents took part in the referendum, with only 27% of the Principality voters supporting the suggested casino ban.
The referendum and the signatures that were necessary to activate it were brought about by IG VolksMelnung – a pressure group that was especially formed to oppose the expansion of casino services in the Principality. According to the proposed casino ban’s supporters, the gambling industry risks damaging the country’s reputation, which has been uploaded on a global blacklist of fiscal paradise markets until more than a decade ago when it started easing bank secretary laws and has since then worked hard to regain.
Liechtenstein Government Calls the Proposed Casino Ban Too Drastic a Measure
One of the members of the pressure group that unveiled the casino ban proposal, Guido Meier, explained that Liechtenstein should not establish itself as a casino and poker hub in the middle of Europe because such a move could pose a significant problem for the country’s reputation.
Before the vote took place on January 29th, the Principality’s prince openly said he did not support the proposed ban on casinos, and so did the Government, which explained that the local gambling sector is an important source of income. Liechtenstein’s Government also argued that a ban was a measure too drastic to address some problems in the nation, such as problem gambling behavior. In fact, the Government has been encouraging local people to vote against the measure, which has been described as too excessive and radical by Deputy Prime Minister Sabine Monauni. According to Mr. Monauni, a casino ban would not solve the issue of problem gambling and gambling addiction rates.
All six casinos have started operation since 2017, when gambling was made legal in Liechtenstein through a law change, which brought crowds of gamblers from Switzerland, Germany, and Austria to the Principality.
Gryphon Invest AG, which currently indirectly holds majority stakes in approximately 50% of the gambling houses around the Principality, has also been against the proposed casino ban that it claims to be against the interest of the local gambling industry. The company previously shared that it was hopeful local voters would follow the advice of the two major political parties, as well as the economic chamber and other institutions’ opinion that a well-regulated market is the better option than a straight-up ban.