Gambling in Salzburg: Casinos & Betting Venues
Gambling is in principal legal in Austria, but more or less strictly regulated. "More or less" because it used to be even stricter as long as there was a functional state monopoly on gambling and very few casinos. Today, the legislation is slightly different and one can generally distinguish between regular gambling and the so-called "Kleines Glücksspiel" or "little gambling" with limited amounts of money involved.
The latter form accounts for the thousands of sport bet cafes, online gaming clubs and bars with slot machines that developed in the past 15-odd years in pretty much all significant communities in Austria. Most of them can be found in bad areas of cities; in the case of Salzburg, this would be near the station and in the district of Lehen. These venues tend to be popular with immigrants and will generally not appeal to international tourists.
There is a long debate on ways to decrease the number of these venues again, with the Green party fighting them the most viciously. Bigger parties don′t, and it is suspicious that big gambling companies often have close ties to major parties and high-ranking politicians.
The 2 "Proper" Casinos in Bad Gastein & Klessheim
With proper casinos, this is an altogether different story - they are generally considered respectable. Since Austria joined the European Union in 1995, it had to abandon or at least weaken the gambling monopoly. The formerly state-owned Casinos Austria were privatised; as a company, they still operate several casinos in Austria and abroad and are among the biggest gambling companies in the world. On contrast to the often shabby small slot machine venues described above, the facilities of the Casinos Austria target a more up-market clientele. They can often be found in palatial buildings. In Salzburg, there are two casinos of this kind.
One is the Casino Salzburg, situated in the Rococo palace of Schloss Klessheim. The building was erected under the rule of Prince Archbishop Firmian (he of Schloss Leopoldskron) and the palace as such is already an attraction. Spending an evening gambling only intensifies the experience. The venue is unique in Austria, even though other casinos might also occupy attractive buildings. This does certainly apply to the second main casino in Salzburg, the Casino Bad Gastein. It is centrally located and situated in a 1907 Jugendstil or Art Nouveau building. The casino is therefore at the very core of Bad Gastein′s fin de siecle atmosphere.
As with casinos in Austria in general, there is an entrance fee to be paid for the two casinos in Salzburg and Bad Gastein. It is currently 23 Euros, for which you get coupons (jetons) that equal a value of 25 Euros. With these coupons, you have to gamble - they are exchanged into convertible ones only if they have been used in some kind of game. There are frequent events, such as "ladies′ nights" with discounts and little gimmicks (for example a free glass of sparkling wine) for women. Typically, a casino will offer roulette, various card games, dice games and slot machines. You have to be at least 18 years old to enter a casino in Austria. In theory, this applies to both the shabby gambling bars and the proper casinos.
Casinos Austria, Official Website
The Law on Gambling in Austria (German)
Information on Gambling and Casinos in Austria