Switzerland’s Newly Approved Gambling Law Could Be Contested with Referendum

Switzerland’s Money Gaming Act (Geldspielgesetz), which includes a massive overhaul of the country’s gambling industry, passed a final vote in the parliament last week. That recent vote was the last hurdle before the legislative piece which is aimed to replace Switzerland’s outdated gambling laws from 1923 and 1998.

As previously reported by Casino News Daily, the new gaming law encompasses provisions concerning both Switzerland’s land-based and online gambling sectors. And while brick-and-mortar gambling venues have been operating legally in the country for quite some time now, the case with online gambling has been a bit different.

Switzerland’s previous gambling laws did not include iGaming as a legal gambling service. However, foreign operators were able to target local players as there was also no official prohibition for the provision of this type of service.

Under the new Money Gaming Act, online gambling will be legal, but only local operators with land-based presence in the market will be able to operate iGaming websites. Foreign companies will not be able to enter the newly regulated Swiss market by themselves. However, it is believed that the door will not be completely shut to those as they will probably be allowed to form partnerships with local operators.

It is important to note that the new gaming law requires that Swiss Internet service providers block the access of foreign unlicensed operators to local players. The Swiss government will compensate ISPs for the expenses that will be created as a result of their new task to keep illegal operations away from the market.

The removal of a previous tax on winnings from sports betting and lotteries was yet another important provision included in the Money Gaming Act. Under the new regulations only winnings of CHF1 million or over will be taxed. Winnings from brick-and-mortar casinos were not taxed previously and will not be taxed under the new gaming act.

The gambling law also allows for small poker tournaments to be organized outside casino premises. Last but not least, it contains policies and safeguards for the protection of players from gambling-related risks.

Staunch Opposition and Potential Referendum

The Money Gaming Act, particularly the portion which tasks local ISPs with blocking foreign operators, was opposed by the youth organizations of the Swiss People’s Party, the Free Democratic Party, and the Green Liberal Party. Members of said organizations are spearheading a referendum against the move, arguing that it violated principles for the free movement of services and access to the Internet.

Opponents will have to collect more than 50,000 signatures from citizens of the country in order to be able to bring up the matter to a referendum. The signature collection is set to begin today, October 10, and members of the three youth parties will have 100 days to complete the task.

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