The Future of Casinos in Europe

Hotel and Casino Resorts

A computer generated image of one of the proposed casino and historical complexes, the Celtic period at the proposed Las Vegas style casino complex baptised Gran Scala in the desert region of Los Monegros near Zaragoza, 27 November 2007. The future of casinos in Europe remains unsure. While all-inclusive hotel and casino resorts continue to flourish across the world, from Macau to South America, the casino industry in Europe has remained largely unchanged for the last three decades.

While massive international conglomerates like Kerzner International, Las Vegas Sands and many others operate and continue to build extravagant casinos in exotic locations like the Bahamas, South Africa, Puerto Rico and Argentina, Europe does not really have any major destination resort casinos, although Casino de Monte Carlo in Monaco is probably the next best thing.

European Casinos

Casinos are owned by the state in countries like Sweden, Finland, Austria and the Netherlands, while Britain continues to operate a "members only' policy and resist attempts to introduce Las Vegas-style hotel and casino resorts.

Private sector owners are heavily taxed across the continent and many countries also limit the number of establishment through private/public sector partnerships that set up exclusive franchise monopolies.

While other countries are riding the casino resort wave, Europe has focused more on consolidation of existing establishments than on development, expansion or evolution of the casino industry.

Eastern Europe

Eastern Europe might represent the future of casinos in Europe. The casino industries in countries like Estonia (which alone boasts 73 casinos), Latvia, Lithuania, Ukraine, the Czech Republic and Russia (which has 169 casinos) are more similar to those in North America than the rest of Europe, hinging around elements of competition and limited regulation.

So long as this trend continues, the future of casinos in Europe seems safe, especially if governments establish casinos as a catalyst for and driver of economic development and prosperity, rather than a generator of tax.

Gran Scala

At the end of 2007, International Leisure Development announced that it would be building a gigantic "leisure city' resort complex in Zaragoza, Spain. Provisionally called Gran Scala and scheduled to open by the end of 2008, the resort will sprawl over 4.5 km and house 32 casino-hotels, five major theme parks, a golf course, residential estate, hundreds of shops and even a horseracing track.

On the basis of international trends, all it will take for other countries to jump on the bandwagon will be for the Gran Scala project to enjoy massive success through high investment returns and tourism generation. The 17-billion-euro complex hopes to attract 25 million visitors per year and create 60 000 direct jobs in the region.

Online Casinos

There is another factor to consider, and that is the explosion of online casinos over the last decade.

This 21st Century phenomenon has raked in a staggering $49 billion since the first online casino was launched in 1995, and the industry continues to mushroom. It may be that the all-inclusive hotel and casino resort is the only thing that can save casinos in Europe... until then, we will have to wait to see how the dice falls.