A recovery for European casinos? By Davide Tedesco January 31, 2014 at 6:31 pm The European Casino Association (ECA) represents the interests of approximately 800 companies operating in 23 EU countries, with more than 55,000 employees. In November 2013, ECA issued its first comprehensive report on the casino industry in Europe, using information provided by its members and the National Casino Forum, UK. European casinos have struggled in recent years, with causes including the introduction of a smoking ban in indoor entertainment areas, the ongoing impacts of the 2008 economic recession, and fierce competition, both legal and illegal. Despite these issues, eight countries increased their gross gambling revenues in 2012. In ECA’s 23 member countries, all the casinos combined had consolidated gaming revenues of €6.58bn in 2012, which was 6.5 percent less than 2011. The 195 casinos in France generated 35 percent of this total, with seven other countries (Germany, Switzerland, Netherlands, Italy, Greece, Spain, and Portugal) each accounting for between 4% and 10%. The ECA reported that the deepest declines between 2011 and 2012 were in Greece, Italy, and Switzerland, with revenues decreasing by 20%, 19%, and 12% respectively. The cause of the declines in Greece and Italy were severe economic recessions in those countries. In Switzerland, the causes included competition from border casinos in other countries, and the introduction of smoking bans. By contrast, casinos in Hungary benefited when, in October 2012, the government banned slot machines in pubs, bars and parlors. The tiny Eastern Europe country has three casinos, whose income (29 million euros) in 2012 was 32% more than in 2011. Other governments are taking action to increase casino revenues: Spain, Cyprus and Slovenia are now actively pursuing investment from major international casino firms, to increase tourism in general and local economies in particular. (In Spain, plans for the proposed EuroVegas were abandoned in December, but two small casinos owned by Spanish companies opened in Madrid – until then closed to casinos – just days later.) All the land-based casinos represented by the ECA face growing competition by online gambling. One point of contention is differing tax rates. In Denmark, for example, the tax rate for (authorized) online casinos is significantly lower than for casinos with physical facilities in that country. The European Commission ruled in September 2011 that the differential tax rate was in fact state aid, but that it was legal because the positive effects of getting online casinos to register and pay taxes was more important than the “distortions of competition” from different tax rates. The EC decision has been appealed to the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU), which is expected to rule on it by June 2014.