updated29. April 2022, 08:52
Today, the income from the lottery fund is invested directly in sports and culture. The Avenir Suisse think tank wants to change that and issue vouchers to everyone instead. Swiss Olympic would be massively affected.
According to Avenir Suisse, the gaming industry generates over 1.5 billion francs a year.
Around a billion of this flows back into sports, cultural and social projects.
But this process is completely opaque and inefficient, says the think tank Avenir Suisse.
She therefore proposes that the money from the lotteries and casinos be redistributed to the population.
It doesn’t matter whether it’s roulette, blackjack or poker: if you play, you dream of winning big. It is often forgotten that behind the casinos and lotteries there is a huge money machine that generates over 1.5 billion francs a year. A large part of this is redistributed via lottery funds. For example to theatres, museums and the football and ice hockey associations. And this is how the cantons finance their performances at the Olma and the Sechseläuten.
The distribution of the funds often causes a stir. For example, when part of the Lucerne government flew to Moscow with the Lucerne Symphony Orchestra and financed the trip with CHF 290,000. Or when Basel-Stadt supported the musical “Lion King” with 150,000 francs. The Solothurn government also paid around 112,000 francs and thus paid a gift for an outgoing government councillor.
Since everyone wants to benefit, according to Avenir Suisse, fair distribution is almost impossible. The think tank has recognized this and is now proposing to return the money to the population. The state should free itself from participations and could thus distribute 115 francs per capita and year (see box).
Such a reform of the gambling system is only possible if the process is “democratized” and the money is no longer distributed via “interest cartels”, says Jürg Müller. In the future, the gambling money should flow back directly to the population, for example via vouchers for sports and cultural activities that people living in Switzerland can redeem. In this way, one could decouple distribution from politics, says the co-author of the Report by Avenir Suisse to 20 minutes.
According to Avenir Suisse, an inefficient “money distribution industry” has developed: Just running the around 80 cantonal lottery funds generates bureaucratic costs of around 16 to 22 million francs – per year!
“The state can no longer be a player in gambling,” says Peter Grünenfelder, director of the think tank. Because the state has three roles at the same time: it regulates the industry, operates casinos and lotteries – and distributes the profits. Swisslos did not want to comment on this when asked.
Swiss Olympic would be severely affected
Martin Eichler, chief economist at the Basel research institute BAK Economics, finds the proposal exciting, but also has reservations. When asked, he says that many Swiss people would probably use the vouchers primarily for cultural and sporting events that are already established. The “big ones” would tend to benefit and the “small ones” would tend to lose. According to Eichler, this jeopardizes the promotion of culture across the board.
“Cultural institutions would also lose their planning security because they could no longer plan the money from the lottery fund.” Priority is given to only economically viable projects being implemented and hardly any risks being taken. Innovation could suffer like that. “The proposal brings some interesting advantages, but also disadvantages that have to be weighed against it,” says Eichler.
Swiss Olympic, which has a budget of around CHF 94 million in 2022, is not enthusiastic. 48 million of them are from the lottery companies Swisslos and Loterie Romande. And this money is “of central importance” – also for the approximately 2.2 million athletes in Switzerland who are members of Swiss Olympic through associations and clubs.