Casino Interlaken and – a journey through time

When you think of the Kursaal Interlaken, most people automatically think of the famous casino and This magnificent building in the Bernese Oberland was built as a casino more than 160 years ago. However, gambling here only started much later. Join us on a journey through history.

In the Kursaalgarten in Interlaken, the water splashes peacefully in a fountain outside, while the slot machines whir tirelessly inside. Nowadays the building, with its picturesque view of the Schynige Platte and the Jungfrau, is inextricably linked to the pleasure of gambling. But that was not always so. Legal gambling without restrictions only began here in 2002 and since 2020 you can also play online at StarVegas. Before that, however, the Kursaal had served many different purposes: from a whey cure facility to a beer bar to an event location, a theater and a venue for concerts – and it was also often a place for gambling.

Everything starts with a monastery site

In the 1850s, a group of residents from Interlaken had an idea: They wanted to build a spa on the former monastery site “Inter Lacus”, but not for spa guests. Instead, they aimed to attract gamblers. The project was initiated on April 2, 1858 with the purchase of the site from the Canton of Bern. The construction and operation were taken over by Baron Azène du Plessis, who implemented the project in record time. After just one year, on July 20, 1859, it was officially opened.

The end of gambling

But the luck only lasted for a month: the government of the canton of Bern issued a ban on gambling, Azène du Plessis ran into financial difficulties and disappeared – the Kursaal had to close.

In a rescue operation, the Kursaal was continued as a whey cure facility. At the time, milk cures were popular, but things weren’t going well financially. However, from 1873 onwards it was expanded: a music pavilion was built in the Kursaalgarten.

Money problems remained

Despite all efforts, the financial problems persisted. In order to generate urgently needed income, the horse-drawn game (Jeu des petits chevaux) was quickly reintroduced in 1883. This “game of little horses” was considered a harmless game of chance at the time. The plan worked and brought in a net profit of 15,000 Swiss francs, but it was also risky: There were fears that the horse-drawn game could soon be banned. Since gambling games were prohibited by law in public restaurants, the Kursaal was quickly declared a private establishment. From now on, guests were – at least officially – excluded.

In 1898, the whey cure institute was finally on the verge of collapse: doctors questioned the effectiveness of the cures, and the popular tradition was forgotten. The new tenant became a beer bar, and the Kursaal rooms were used for events.

Shortly before the start of the First World War it was even rebuilt again. The architect Paul Bouvier created the Kursaal, which is now a listed building, with a concert, games and theater hall for all kinds of events. With this project, Interlaken developed into a conference location.

The war years

A difficult time began with the First World War, which lasted until the mid-1940s. Almost all personnel were serving in the military, the economic figures were poor, and there was a temporary closure. The loss of 181,000 Swiss francs was record-breaking, but that wasn’t enough: a gaming ban passed in 1920 forced the Kursaal to stop gaming operations.

At the end of the 1920s, a financial tug-of-war for survival began. There was a lack of gaming revenue, and the so-called casino initiative was intended to enable at least limited gaming operations with limited stakes of two francs. The Kursaal was in the black for a short time, but ultimately had to close again.

In 1946 the Kursaal gradually recovered. With the reopening, big things were planned: the Interlaken Festival. Although the implementation of this project failed, from now on they relied on concerts as a new source of income. With success: things went well financially at the 100th anniversary celebrations in 1959. The events business flourished and the Kursaal became a well-booked event location. Construction was expanded at the beginning of the 1970s – the congress center, which was completed in 1980, was expected to cost 16.3 million Swiss francs.

Back to the playful roots

In 1993, the Swiss people approved the establishment of casinos in a referendum by a large majority (72 percent), and after extensive renovation, gaming was finally allowed again. In 1997, the Kursaal received ISO certification, was restored and the club casino was opened. On October 24, 2001, Interlaken finally received the land-based casino licenses – the Casino Interlaken opened on July 3, 2002 and has welcomed around 90,000 visitors every year since then.

There was also further development at the event level: a new congress hall was built and opened in 2010 as part of the 150th anniversary celebrations – Interlaken Congress & Events became a subsidiary.

StarVegas starts in 2020

Just in time for the Kursaal’s 160th birthday, the time has finally come: is launched. In November 2019, Casino Interlaken received the necessary license extension and started online gaming operations from February 24, 2020.

The Casino Interlaken today

Today the Kursaal Group consists of two main divisions: Congress Kursaal Interlaken AG and Casino Interlaken AG. In addition to the casino operation, this historic building is a popular venue for conferences, weddings and events and has played a crucial role in the city’s tourism for many years.

Today the Kursaal Group consists of two main divisions: Congress Kursaal Interlaken AG and Casino Interlaken AG. In addition to the casino operation, this historic building is a popular venue for conferences, weddings and events and has played a crucial role in the city’s tourism for many years.


For over 160 years, the Kursaal has experienced prosperous times whenever gambling is permitted. Why this is the case remains an open question. Perhaps it was always destined to be what it is today: a magnet for gamblers from all over the world.

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