Swiss Pastor behind Bars after Conning Parishioners to Finance His Gambling Addiction

The convicted former clergyman managed to abscond with CHF3.3 million ($3.4 million) from his flock by begging and asking for loans. The scheme fell apart after seventy of his victims filed complaints.

The Gambling Pastor Will Serve Six Months of Jail Time and Attend Therapy

The 52-year-old pastor ran his scheme between 2009 and 2018 when he resigned from his position as a Catholic priest. During that period, he frequently begged churchgoers for money and took multiple loans, which he subsequently lost during his routine roulette and blackjack sessions.

The Swiss prosecution was lenient regarding this case and sentenced the former pastor to a three-year suspended jail sentence. The defendant currently lives in a monastery and must now spend six months behind bars. The prosecution stated that there were several extenuating circumstances. The former priest’s full confession helped identify most of his victims, which is usually an arduous ordeal in such cases. The pastor also agreed to start therapy and treat his gambling addiction.

Swiss Casinos Are Required to Ban Problem Gamblers

Hopefully, similar cases should now be much rarer in Switzerland. In 2020, Swiss regulators recorded 72,322 instances of people banned from in-person and online casinos. Operators who determine that a player has accumulated debt or is unable to meet their financial obligations are required to ban that individual from using their services. Another reason for a potential ban is if a customer bets inordinately large amounts compared to their income or if the provider receives a signal from an authority that a client suffers from a gambling addiction. Individuals can also ask to be banned, and casinos keep a register of those affected.

The Swiss Gambling Commission claimed that a large amount of bans is a signal that regulations are working. NGO Addiction Suisse views the number in a more concerned manner and has called for advertising restrictions and the creation of an expert group to increase awareness among authorities.

The Gambling Industry in the Country Records Consistent Profits

Operators in the small European nation fall under the regulation of the Swiss Federal Gaming Board, which handles casino gaming, and the Swiss Gambling Supervisory Authority, which oversees the lottery, sports betting, and skill games such as poker. Operators were allowed in the country in 2019 and must follow an extensive list of rules. iGaming properly launched only recently in 2020. Gambling companies must abide by various customer protection measures and are required to file annual reports on the effectiveness of these measures.

Gambling in Switzerland generates an annual turnover of roughly $700 million and is a fast-growing industry, even though the country has banned foreign operators from doing business within its borders. Sports betting and lottery cards are also growing in popularity and have generated a turnover of about $1.05 billion.

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