Liechtenstein votes resoundingly against banning casinos

FILE PHOTO: A long exposure shows traffic flowing past the Casino Schaanwald in Schaanwald, Liechtenstein January 12, 2023. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann

ZURICH (Reuters) - Voters in Liechtenstein on Sunday roundly rejected a proposed ban on casinos in a referendum that has polarized the tiny principality and its 40,000 citizens.

With six casinos dotted across the country that is a tenth of the size of London, the microstate has been dubbed the "Las Vegas of the Alps" among punters.

Pro-ban arguments on issues like gambling addiction and potential damage to the wealthy nation's reputation were, however, resoundingly swept aside since 73% of those who voted rejected the ban and 27% backed it, with a turnout of 70%, according to the official count published online.

The referendum, and the signatures needed to trigger it, were brought about by pressure group IG Volksmeinung, formed to fight the "casino flood".

They argue that the fledgling industry risks tarnishing a national image that the state has worked hard to repair. The country was on an international blacklist of tax havens until it began easing bank secrecy laws more than a decade ago.

Prior to the vote, the country's prince spoke out against the ban, as did the government, which said the gambling industry is an important source of income and argued that a ban was too drastic a measure to address problems like gambling addiction.

(Reporting by Noele Illien; Additional reporting by Francois Murphy in Vienna; Editing by Toby Chopra)

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