Gambling in Liechtenstein
Gambling laws in Liechtenstein, a small independent state in Western Europe that has borders with Switzerland and Austria, provide that gambling is legal. Up until 2010 the gambling industry in the Principality was considered illegal, because the law prohibiting gambling in Liechenstein was in effect since 1949. The only gambling entertainment allowed in the country was the International Lottery (Internationale Lotterie in Liechtenstein Stiftung), which became available online in 1995. ILLF was managing many lottery-related websites, each of which was paying a percentage of the profits towards charities. In 2011, however, the lottery went bankrupt and ceased to exist. In 2010 the Parliament passed a new law - Geldspielgesetz (GSG), which lifted a ban on playing for money and on operations of official casinos in the country's territory.
Gambling Games Played in Liechtenstein
Players from Liechtenstein have been visiting the websites of various virtual casinos and playing the slots by such developers as: IGT, Novomatic, WMS, Playtech, NetEnt and others. It would be difficult to single out any specific slots that the players prefer more than others. They undoubtedly are familiar with such top-ranking games as: Book of Ra Deluxe, Sizzling Hot, Lucky Lady's Charm, Zeus III, Cleopatra and Pompeii.
There were many attempts being made to legalise the gambling industry in Liechtenstein. The first attempt was made as far back as 1868, when the country encountered some financial hardships. Prince Johann I, however, managed to pay all debts out of his own pocket, since he did not want any gambling presence in the Principality. Ever since then there have been ongoing discussions on this issue, but any attempt to legalise the gambling industry have never been successful. Only in 2010 the government passed the gambling law (Geldspielgesetz) that came into force in 2011. This law views any games for money as gambling, where winnings are determined at random. They include: games of skill. This is the category that includes entertainment, where the result fully or partially depends on the player's mastery or skill. These games are normally played in casinos (poker, blackjack, etc.), lotteries, sportsbooks, bookmaking, slot machines, gaming tournaments in casinos, online gambling. Gambling law in Liechtenstein is designed to ensure safe, orderly and transparent gambling operations, safeguard the clients and third parties in the area of gaming operations against money laundering, organised crime and funding of terrorism through game suppliers and prevent socially detrimental consequences of gaming operations. According to this law, all profits coming to the state from the gambling industry must be donated to various charitable projects and events. These are the people who are forbidden to take part in gambling: those under 18 years of age, people who have applied to block gambling for themselves in order to be protected from gambling addiction, members of government, officers of supervisory agencies, as well as members of the Advisory Council and people towards whom enforcement measures were taken in compliance with the Law On International Sanctions. Casino games will be restricted for the following: members of government and casino employees, stockholders that own more than 5% of the casino's shares and staff of affiliate companies that produce or sell gaming items.
Evolution of the laws in Liechenstein
The new law was developed by applying the Swiss experience. The government figured that legalisation of gambling entertainment would create new jobs for the people of Liechtenstein, extra tax deductions will be coming to the treasury and the Principality will increase the number of tourists coming in. This bill came into effect in 2011, but up until this day there has not been a single land-based casino opened in the territory of the state. In 2012, however, an attempt was made to grant a concession to Vaduzerhof AG casino. But the project was curtailed because another contender for the concession - Admiral AG - filed a complaint concerning the rejection. The litigation lasted for about a year. The government eventually decided to reconsider the rashly-adopted gambling acts. In October 2016 the amendments came into force aimed at regulating the licensing system for gaming establishments. As of May 2017, there are two major casinos that are interested in entering the market of Liechtenstein, which are Admiral Casinos AG and Casinos Austria AG. They have already applied for a license and will soon find out what decision was made by the Office of Economic Affairs (Amt für Volkswirtschaft). The analysts claim that new casinos in Liechtenstein might be able to compete with the nearest Swiss casinos, since the percentage of taxes will be much lower (12.5% to 40%) than in neighbouring Switzerland (52.13%). As far as online gambling is concerned, it is not allowed. Yet, not a single online casino has been registered in the country so far. Nonetheless, players from Liechtenstein can freely visit the websites of foreign operators. These websites are not blocked or banned by the law.
The main regulator of the gambling industry in the Principality of Liechtenstein is the Office of Economic Affairs (Amt für Volkswirtschaft). The Office is under the Ministry for Infrastructure, Economic Affairs and Sport. It is the Office of Economic Affairs that grants licenses and concessions for services in the gambling entertainment.
Overseeing and enforcement of the gambling law is carried out by: the Government, the Office of Economic Affairs and FMA.
Each operator that would like to set up a casino in the country's territory must be granted a concession from the Government. No legal basis for granting a concession is in existence. The Government reserves the right to limit the number of permits for running a gambling business. A concession for casino operations may be granted only when:
- The applicant divided the share capital into registered shares no later than two months after the concession was granted
- The applicant, key business partners, shareholders and people that can lawfully manage the company's property, all have sufficient personal funds, a good reputation and guarantees on flawless operation of the business
- The applicant, shareholders and key partners have proven the lawful origin of funds upon the request from the Government
- Independence from any external management, transparency and monitoring of gaming operations and cashflow that are provided by policies, organisation, contractual obligations, internal regulations and quality management systems
- The applicant guarantees safety, due diligence and social concept
- The applicant provides performance calculations that show that the company is economically viable
- The applicant has outlined the casino's economic advantages in a written report
- The applicant has an appropriate domestic facility
To be granted a concession, the operator must submit an application to the Office of Economic Affairs. The Government will make a decision on the issuance. If the number of applications submitted exceeds the pre-planned number of government concessions, the Government makes a decision based on the quality of applications for the optimal implementation of the objective of the existing gambling law. The permit to conduct gambling business is normally valid for 20 years. The government can provide a shorter or longer term of validity if this is justified by special circumstances. The concession can also be expanded or renewed. The concession, however, cannot be transferred. The concessionaire must notify the Office of Economic Affairs: with no delay and no later than four weeks concerning any major changes in the licensing conditions (criminal investigation or criminal record, bankruptcy, revocation or suspension of concessions) and in timely manner, until legal effect comes into force: on transferring of shares in concentration of more than 5% of the capital or transferring of voting rights to one shareholder; on increase or decrease of the share; on entering into agreements with key business partners.
Online gambling in Liechtenstein
Online gambling in Liechtenstein is legal. The legislation states that an organiser of online games must publish the following information on the homepage: its name and address, the date of the concession agreement, an indication that it is a legitimate monetary game and an indication that minors are forbidden to play. Prior to starting the game the operator must request the following information from the player: name and address including e-mail address, date of birth and a bank account number or a credit card number with the name and address of the holder. Today there is not a single online casino registered in the territory of Liechtenstein, but the local players can still visit the websites of foreign operators freely. Over 100 websites of online casinos are available to them, which accept bets in either Euros or Swiss Francs. Normally the interface on these websites is available in German.
Development of the Gambling Market in Liechtenstein
Even though gambling in Liechtenstein has been officially allowed since 2011, not a single land-based or web-based casino has been founded on the country's soil. But there are already two operators that will be given a permission to open their casinos in the near future. The names of the companies applying for a concession are reportedly Admiral Casinos AG and Casinos Austria AG. The operators have already decided on the location of their casinos and developed a plan for their construction. Transformations are in store for the gambling industry in Liechtenstein Since tax rates are relatively low, many companies will be willing to enter the country's market, which in turn will contribute to the rapid development of this industry and attract additional profits into the budget.
The state collects taxes from the gross revenue of the gambling industry by applying the following brackets: casinos - no less than 12.5% and no more than 40%, lotteries and wagers - no less than 10% and no more than 20% and online gambling - no less than 5% and no more than 12.5%.