I’ve just returned from two weeks in Germany and Austria, having been wowed by the gaming product I saw there. Encumbered by tax rates that would be considered high by non-European standards, a successful gaming industry has nevertheless been developed. From the spectacularly beautiful Casino Baden-Baden, the sports betting kiosks all over Munich, to the centrally located Casino Wien in Vienna, the region offers something for every type of gamer.
I visited Casino Wien on a weekend morning, heard the familiar ding-dings, chings, and beeps of slot machines, and saw the flashing lights all wrapped in a relatively dark room. Going up to the second and third floors, a more upscale slot room and table games area awaited. Located on a major pedestrian mall in the city center, accessible only by foot, Casino Wien called out to tourists such as me. In the morning hours, Chinese tourists trickled in, but most everyone else was saving their casino visit for later in the day. As Vienna entertains approximately 21 million tourist visitors per year, facilities such as Casino Wien seem well-positioned.
The nearly 200-year old Casino Baden-Baden caters to a different type of visitor. When I stepped inside, I felt like I had been transported to a James Bond film. From the casino’s check-in procedures to the dress code, and the eerie quiet of the gaming salons, it was clear that this was a place for serious bets to be placed. In a series of lavish baroque style rooms, table games were king (or Kaiser?). French Roulette, American Roulette, and Poker were the games of the evening, although one stay soul was at the Blackjack table. The slot machines, all 12 of them, were relegated to a closed-off, sound-proof room to the side. In this high-stakes casino, men played with men and only an occasional lady joined in the action. Incidentally, some of the same gentlemen I had seen at the spa earlier in the day were also in the casino this evening. What a fanciful business trip they must have been having.
The opulence of Casino Baden-Baden certainly isn’t for every gamer, and I observed the widespread popularity of sports betting parlors across Munich and Salzburg. Nearly every neighborhood I toured hosted at least one, if not multiple facilities. These parlors and kiosks ranged from modern and pristine, filled with monitors rolling out scores and statistics, to simple windows on major street corners. While somewhat quiet (yet not inactive) most days, Munich’s sports betting kiosks poured out into the streets during the World Cup semi-final match between France and Belgium. The excitement, palpable across the city, had a bit of an edge to it here.
Overall, I sensed that these gaming markets are mature, widely-accepted, and closely regulated. Germany and Austria’s gaming facilities appear to offer what the people want – a wide variety of gaming options. Each has their niche and fills it well.
Suzanne P. Leckert, AICP