Although Liechtenstein legalized gambling in 2010, the Government seems reluctant to let online operators launch their business in Europe’s fourth-smallest country. With a population of nearly 40,000, Liechtenstein has six retail gambling operators. At its latest meeting, the government decided to extend the online gambling ban until the end of 2028. The issuance of iGaming licenses has been prohibited for at least five more years.
As the government’s statement explained, due to various developments within the gambling industry over the last couple of years, it has taken proactive measures to restrain the growth of the sector.
Following an immediate measure introduced in 2022, no new casino operators can obtain licenses in the country until the end of 2025.
Earlier this year, in October, Liechtenstein and Switzerland concluded an agreement enabling the exchange of data on gambling suspensions between the two countries. Until then, banned gamblers from one of the two countries could visit casino establishments in the other one. Under the terms of the agreement, this is no longer possible, with the primary objective being to curb trans-border gambling tourism and ensure robust player protection mechanisms. The information-sharing agreement is expected to enter into force in 2024 when the parliamentary approval process in Switzerland will be finalized.
These measures aim to bring about further market consolidation, as explained in the latest government statement.
With that being said, the land-based gambling industry is developing at a dynamic pace in the small country. Gambling establishments in Liechtenstein have been thriving over the years. They have been a substantial source of revenue for the country’s economy. With a 34.5% gambling tax rate, Liechtenstein’s two casinos contributed CHF 19.9 million ($23 million) to the economy in 2018.
Additionally, Deputy Prime Minister Sabine Monauni noted that taxes generated by foreign visitors to Liechtenstein’s casinos amounted to approximately CHF53 million ($53 million) in 2022, highlighting that “this is certainly a revenue that is also relevant for our budget”. She added that the government was willing to allow gambling in Liechtenstein and “find a balance between measures that reduce activity but at the same time don’t totally destroy the market”.
Referendum Participants Choose to Keep Liechtenstein’s Casinos Open
On January 29, 2023, a referendum took place in Liechtenstein, raising the question of whether casinos should be completely prohibited until 2028. Approximately 70% of the country’s eligible voters took part in the referendum.
The majority, or 73.3% of participants, voted against the amendment entering into force. If they had chosen to prohibit casinos, all existing establishments would have been forced to cease their operations within five years at the latest from the moment the amendment took effect.
The outcome was surprising to some, considering the rising concerns over increased gambling addiction among the population and the fears of damaging the country’s reputation.
As Liechtenstein does not grant licenses to online gambling operators, the government cannot prosecute players for registering and gambling at foreign sites. Similar to online gaming, sports betting remains within the “gray area”, with no retail betting locations or remote bookmakers in Liechtenstein.