Attracted by the jackpot, Sion wants to host a casino on land of general interest

The redistribution of casino concessions by the Confederation for the period 2025-2045 is whet the appetite in Valais. Crans-Montana wants to keep its slot machines, but Sion, Saxon and even Martigny are also in competition. The capital is even ready to host a casino on land of general interest.

The proposal of the city council of Zion challenges, due to the municipal building regulations, for which an area of ​​general interest refers to facilities of “public utility”, such as a school, a hospital, a building administrative or even a Game.

Also included in the definition are private facilities “important to the community”, such as a clinic, a cultural center, a hotel or a sports center.

Read also: Saxon agrees to sell land for the construction of casinos

Critical specialists

What about a casino? Of the four land use specialists surveyed by the RTS, none considers that a gambling house does not fit into this list, unless it is interpreted very broadly, for example equating the casino with the hotel, explicitly authorized by municipal regulations.

But for Sédune architect and urban planner Lucien Barras, an area of ​​general interest should not be open to commercial companies, because this particular status entails more flexible regulation regarding the height of buildings, in particular.

The former president of the engineers and architects of Valais, Léonard Bender, for his part, believes that a casino is outside the definition of municipal regulations. Politically, it would only give the green light if the city had more areas of general interest than needed for the next generation.

Without endorsing the argument, an urban planner imagines that the City Council could justify the construction of a gambling house by equating it with a hotel, an exception authorized by municipal regulations.

Economic interest in Zion

Along with Sion City Council, the president of the municipality Philippe Varone (PLR) sees a public interest in the economic interest represented by the various taxes that could be collected. He also cites the tourist argument that the authorities now intend to rely on more.

By way of comparison, the Crans-Montana Casino has already contributed up to 900,000 francs in one year to the surrounding municipalities, not counting the indirect benefits. The Confederation and the canton of Valais raise more, and raise almost a quarter of the revenue, which was about 15 million francs in 2019.

This is not a special case

In Sion, beyond the case of the casino, this is not the first time that a land use or public interest rule has been widely interpreted in Zion. This was especially the case for the gondola that supposedly connected the capital of Valais with the town of Veysonnaz.

The City Council always hinted that the Confederation would fund it as it was not just about tourism, but about public transportation. The Federal Bureau of Transportation did not hear that.

Another case concerns an “oenoparc” managed by the family winery of the president of the commune, Philippe Varone. This project is located in a protected agricultural area, which could be a problem. The Grand Council of Valais has instructed the Council of State to shed light on this controversial application for a building permit.