Remko Tanis • 13 November 2018

Last week I ended up in Campione d’Italia, a tiny exclave in southern Switzerland. It belongs to Italy. Over ten percent of its build up area is occupied by a single casino, which earlier this year ran out of luck.

‘Solution: Reopen Immediately.’ Protest by employees in front of the bankrupt Casinò Municipale in Campione d’Italia. Photo: (C) Remko Tanis

The Casinò Municipale in Campione is a giant beige building on the shore of Lake Lugano. It sits completely empty and abandoned. Last week, 6 November, marked the 100th day since the casino closed after a court in Como declared it bankrupt with debts amounting to EUR 132 million.

The 492 employees (that’s a quarter of the total population of Campione) haven’t been paid since March, after already having missed out on their final 2017 paycheck. During the day they’re protesting from a tent outside the casino, wearing white t-shirts with the text #salviamoCampione - save Campione. A banner on the tent reads: ‘SOS. Campione is dead’.

Closed doors at the Casinò Municipale in Campione d’Italia. Photo: (C) Remko Tanis

The municipality, which owned the gamblers’ paradise, now has also declared bankruptcy. Ironically the demise of the casino is said to have been caused by that very municipality as it demanded an ever higher cut of gaming revenue.

Real estate in the exclave valued at a total of 40 million euros wil literally be put up for auction. Now is the time to pick up a 3 room, 102 square meter apartment with lake view for only EUR 290,000 (already discounted down from EUR 330,000). A comparable apartment across the lake in Lugano, Switzerland, also with lake view, currently lists at EUR 690,000.

Banner protesting the casino closure in Campione d’Italia, an Italian exclave in Switzerland. Photo: (C) Remko Tanis

Politicians in Rome are due to come up with a solution for Campione d’Italia. Banners in the exclave demand an immediate solution. There’s even a cry for help hung from the border gate with Switzerland (a simple stone arch - there are no border controls).

Apparently some Swiss investors are considering turning the casino into a medical clinic. There’s also cautious interest from others who still believe a casino in Campione can work.

Most of the people in Campione expect nothing to change any time soon though. They are preparing to move back to mainland Italy, according to Italian newspaper Il Giorno.

Protest banner hanging from the border gate between Campione d’Italia, Italy and Bissone, Switzerland. Photo: (C) Remko Tanis

Remko Tanis