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Gullfoss and Geysir and not much else

An idea is currently being tossed around about setting up a casino in the Hotel Nordica.

Casinos and most forms of gambling are illegal here in the Land of the Nice — well, except for slot machines, which bizzarely are used to finance SÁÁ – the alcohol treatment centre, the University of Iceland, and various other ventures.

Twin brothers, Arnar and Bjarki Gunnlaugsson, who are fairly well known here in Iceland for their former soccer prowess, are behind the casino idea.

One of the reasons for wanting the casino, Bjarki tells Fréttablaðið today, is because “we have Gullfoss and Geysir and not much else”.

Meanwhile, the Fréttablaðið editorial calls attention to the Icelandic word for casino: spilavíti. Literally translated, it means “game hell”. [No, I am not making this up.] Fréttablaðið suggests changing the name to spilastofa, or “game lounge”, which it considers more palatable.

Personally, I prefer “game hell”. It’s more edgy and marks a nice contrast to our OTHER two tourist attractions.

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  • James Wilde February 9, 2010, 6:36 pm

    “Game hell”! I love it. Never thought about the actual meaning of the parts of the word before. It was just the word for a casino.

  • Schnee February 9, 2010, 7:16 pm

    That’s interesting. “Spielhölle” (which means the same thing) exists as a word in German, too (not the only one, though, and it IS a rather negative one, naturally); I wonder if there is any relationship there or whether this is just a coincidence.

  • Tom Harper February 9, 2010, 7:22 pm

    Game hell IS a fantastic term. I think we should adopt it in English.

    Also, this seems like a good idea to me, if it is pulled off well and taxed well. Nothing like letting tourists spend their money in shops and then fund your gov’t after a few drinks, eh?

  • Tom Harper February 9, 2010, 7:28 pm

    As for Gullfoss and Geysir and not much else, I actually spent 5 days last summer in Iceland on what I consider an awesome, action-packed trip. Neither of those two places was a feature of the trip 😉 There’s plenty more to Iceland, not the least of which is the people!

  • Jessica February 9, 2010, 8:22 pm

    Considering the other ideas tossed around lately (i.e., build more smelters, take in international terrorists, etc.) this “game hell” idea doesn’t sound so bad by comparison. Reykjavik could have its own little “Caesar’s Ice Palace”.

  • idunn February 9, 2010, 8:25 pm

    “Nevertheless, conventional wisdom has long held that gambling is recession-proof. In Las Vegas, it’s been anything but.”
    – ‘Esquire’
    http://www.esquire.com/features/data/nate-silver-sin-tax-1009

    “Taking the biggest hit were the 54 casinos in the balance of Clark County, including Mesquite and North Las Vegas. They reported a net loss of $146.2 million, down 235.9 percent from the previous fiscal year.”
    – ‘Las Vegas Sun’
    http://www.lasvegassun.com/news/2009/jan/16/annual-report-shows-dramatic-fall-casino-profits/

    Maucau’s [China] gambling revenue fell 12.5% in the first half of 2009, with hope for a rebound in the 2nd half, which indeed occurred. But Las Vegas, Nevada isn’t the only major casino market having suffered a downturn.

    One of Las Vegas’ problems that it used to be the only game in town, and now casinos and other forms of gambling are widespread throughout the United States. What the citizens of Iceland might take from this is that it is a zero sum game, with two green spaces on the roulette wheel favoring the house. Even if not recession-proof, casinos are still remarkably good at extracting a fixed percentage from all their guests in total. If Iceland allows some slot machines now to help fund AAA and the University of Iceland, presumably the enterprise of Arnar and Bjarki Gunnlaugsson will be less humanitarian, with most revenues flowing into their hands.

    From whom? It seems unlikely Iceland will become the Las Vegas of the near Arctic, or that the common tourist will favor serious gambling in their short visit over the natural sights and wonders. Then if largely the home market, history suggests revenue will most often come from the most desperate or able to play. If allowing this scheme the state of Iceland would presumably do so in looking for their cut, but that doesn’t work out as a very helpful tax. This seems akin to eating one’s own tail.

    If Arnar and Bjarki Gunnlaugsson make out in such a deal (assuming financing?), who else would?

  • Paul Clapham February 9, 2010, 8:27 pm

    The same sort of word choice occurs in the same debates where I live. If you’re in favour of casinos, you call it “gaming”. If you aren’t, you call it “gambling”. You can tell which side people are on by their first sentence.

    When I was in Iceland last summer, I did go to Gullfoss and Geysir, and I wouldn’t have been caught dead in a casino. But that’s just me. The casinos where I live aren’t failing due to lack of customers.

  • Joerg February 9, 2010, 8:41 pm

    I have been travelling to Iceland regularly for many years and always enjoyed the “not much else” part of the country, without ever missing a “game hell”. But ok, if there is a demand, why not.

    After all, gambling in an Icelandic casino should be reminiscent of what happened in Iceland in the pre-kreppa years. So, it might provide some nostalgia. I just hope, that nobody is going to take out a foreign currency loan to try his luck.

  • Paul H February 9, 2010, 8:44 pm

    Gullfoss and Geysir and not much else?!!! What?!!!
    [rubs eyes vigorously to be certain seeing correctly]
    Iceland has one hell of a lot more than just those two sights going for it.
    We have people here trying to get a casino for our small town.
    Opposition to it comes from people who say the ‘hallowed ground’ of the battlefield should not have a casino near it.
    Since these things are all over America to begin with, I don’t personally have a problem with it here.
    However, I don’t think Iceland is in desperate need of a casino (IMHO).
    We are personally promoting the bejeezus out of Iceland to everyone we know.
    Hopefully that will suffice as some small contribution.

  • Lissa February 9, 2010, 9:00 pm

    A casino in the Hotel Nordica? Isn’t that right across from a rather large park? That’ll be perfect for the crime that comes with gambling.

    In Detroit, they said our city budget issues would be solved by permitting 3 casinos. Well, no one seems to know where that money went.

    Wait…that means gambling is perfect for Iceland!

  • Freyja February 9, 2010, 9:00 pm

    Paul H & I plan to spend a lot of years seeing “not much else”.

    Perhaps we should invite Arnar and Bjarki to accompany us, so that they can see what else Icyland has to offer. We’ve found some pretty cool stuff so far.

  • Silvia Planchett February 9, 2010, 9:50 pm

    Considering the amount of corruption in this land of Oz, a casino would would definitely fit quite nicely.

  • James February 9, 2010, 10:03 pm

    Perhaps the casino could be for foreigners only, with passports checked at entry, so there’s no risk to Icelandic citizens and society. Tourists could see Gullfoss and Geysir in the mornings, before the casino opens…

  • sigga February 9, 2010, 11:00 pm

    What happened to the third corner of the triangle??? Ah yes, that was parliament – maybe the new gaming hell should be located there? Afterall there will be someone putting in an application for the hotel that burned down. We could become like the native American reservations… We could become tax free. I am sure that the IP party would love that… Oh Alda… life is full of opportunities. (we just need to figure out a way to get the ones that lose all there money to disappear – oh, ofcourse, Gullfoss and Geysir will take care of that!)

  • sylvia hikins February 9, 2010, 11:48 pm

    I hope that wouldn’t result in the mafia arriving in Iceland as well as the banksters? I’m not sure that your economy could support both groups operating side by side!
    sylvia from viking wirral

  • kevin o'connor waterford ireland February 10, 2010, 2:04 am

    Nice little taxation idea, although it would be good for the tourist industry as tourists are by definition people that go to places they don’t live in and splurge money at an unsustainable rate that that they would never dream of doing back home,the car hire,the hotels,the drink,the restaurant meals, I used to go with my friends to a casino in Perth Western Australia,you got free coffee and biscuits,the drinks where among the cheapest in town and the female blackjack dealers had the most impossible low cut dresses in town ha ha.

  • Jim February 10, 2010, 2:13 am

    just a bit of triv.
    It’s my understanding that casinos need ‘whales’ to make money as opposed to minnows.

  • Andrew (the other one) February 10, 2010, 8:06 pm

    We had a similar debate here in Saskatoon a few years ago. Some hotel owners were promoting the idea that to be a “destination” for big spending tourists, you had to have a casino right in the middle of town. There was some mention of attracting big international conferences, which apparently require a casino. Well I’ve been to big international scientific conferences where we managed just fine without a casino. Maybe scientists are just not gamblers…

    The idea went to a city wide plebicite (vote) and was roundly defeated. It didn’t stop the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations setting up their own casinos on reservations of course.

    Honestly, do you want to go to a place with outstanding scenery and of great natural beauty, and go and sit in a casino? Not me.

    That’s why Las Vegas is in the middle of the desert – no nice scenary to distract from the gambling.

  • hildigunnur February 10, 2010, 8:59 pm

    The argument: “It’s better to have gambling out in the open since it’s happening anyway” (the main argument) does sound a bit like: “Since there’s gambling going on anyway, it’s better to be able to make money from it”

    And it DOES seem like Arnar and Bjarki have never been outside Reykjavík…

  • Laura February 11, 2010, 4:00 am

    Can’t comment on the politics or who will make a killing, but it is a good idea, especial considering the lucrative tourist trade.

  • vikingisson February 11, 2010, 2:35 pm

    Worst idea, evar..
    Money could potentially flow but it won’t help the overall economy unless you build Vegas and make it the primary industry. Ontario brought in gambling and endless lotteries during our last kreppa, billions of dollars are flowing and still the gov cries poverty. You’ll never see a krona from it. Most of the money will come from your own people no matter what the proponents say.
    bad bad idea.