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Updated by Dale Shelabarger
Switzerland have decided to legalise online gambling, but it’s not all good news.
The phrase “one step forward, two steps back” comes to mind when talking about the new online casino legislation in Switzerland this weekend.
As is more common in mainland European countries, many of the small, “neutral” country’s citizens took to the polls to shape their government’s policy through referenda. This particular question, whether people backed a proposed Gambling Act, has direct and immediate bearing on our industry.
In fact, a very healthy 72.9% of voters endorsed the sweeping changes. From the outside, this seems like a win for the industry. What’s more, the Act effectively legalises online casinos and sportsbook for the first time. The Act has already been approved and passed through both the country’s houses of parliament.
However, not all is as it seems.
Unfortunately, a conversation with an excited Swiss casino gambler is going to go something like this:
“Well, you see, here’s the thing…”
Happy Swiss fella: So online casinos in Switzerland are now legal and regulated, so we can enjoy gambling guilt free?
Me: Yes, indeedy.
Happy Swiss fella: Now players will able to sign up to casinos from all the best operators around the world like bgo, Casimba, and PlayOJO? All the sites we couldn’t believe we were missing out on before and now no longer have to?
Me: Sadly not.
Happy Swiss fella: Oh, so we’ll just have to wait for the operators to obtain Swiss licenses and THEN we can play these sites in Switzerland… right?
Me: Yeah, no…?????
Though the new Gambling Act legalises in Switzerland online gaming and betting for the first time in 2019, only Swiss companies who operate land-based casinos already will be able to launch online brands. Therefore, the government plans to block all foreign betting and gaming sites to Swiss customers. This will no doubt face resistance from many operators from around the world looking to get a slice of the pie.
But this resistance has not just come from the corporate strata. Many young people in Switzerland have accused the government of trying to “censor the internet.” In fact, the reason the bill went to a referendum in the first place is because various political youth groups gathered the 50,000 signatures required to trigger one. For them, however, it was a gamble that didn’t pay off.
The government retorted that these regulations were necessary to keep on top of problem gambling. They could enforce strict regulations such as blocking known problem gamblers. In addition, the government could maximise tax revenue.
The Swiss has an active online betting and gaming customer base, even before this legislation comes into effect next year. The government estimates that the country spends almost 250 million Swiss francs (CHF) a year on “illegal” (unregulated) gambling sites based abroad. This is worth roughly £190 million.
The country’s most famous land-based venue is the Casino Barrière de Montreux. The casino, originally built in 1881, has hosted many legendary music artists as the venue for the Montreux Jazz Festival as well as hosting concerts. During a Frank Zappa rock concert in 1971, the casino burned down after a fan fired a flare gun. The casino re-opened in 1975.
What do you make of the new Swiss Gambling Act? Smart move or affront to our freedoms? Please don’t hesitate to get in touch via our social media platforms.