Published: January 21, 2018

Switzerland – Swiss Casinos says online referendum threatens ‘player safety’

Switzerland’s land-based and online operator Swiss Casinos has said that profits and player protection are being endangered by the referendum against the online gaming law, which it says has been funded ‘with great financial support from online gambling companies operating illegally from abroad.’

Under Swiss legislation, residents can challenge any bill with a referendum if they successfully present 50,000 valid signatures.

The Swiss Digital Society has said it has collected the necessary 50,000 signatures and wants a referendum.
New laws approved in October state that only local operators with a physical presence in Switzerland will be able to target Swiss players online. Local internet service providers will block access to unlicensed online gaming operations.
However members of several youth political organisations claim that blocking access to internationally licensed online gambling websites violates principles for the free movement of services as well as for free and unobstructed access to Internet-based services.

Marc Baumann, CEO Swiss Casinos Gruppe, said: “The gambling law is rightly under special observation. It must provide as much protection as possible against money laundering, fraud and gambling addiction. That’s why cash games in Switzerland are so heavily regulated. Even abroad, permission to play cash games is usually associated with very strict conditions. The Swiss lottery companies and the casinos must meet strict requirements. In addition, they contribute CHF 1bn each year to non-profit organisations (AHV, sports, culture, environmental and social projects). With the new gambling law, the Swiss casinos and lottery companies will be able to offer their games online from 2019 – again under strict conditions.”

He added: “In order to be able to apply the tried-and-tested system to the online market, the National Council of States and the Council of States (on the proposal of the Federal Council and the cantons) have decided to grant access to the illegal online gambling sites, mostly from offshore locations such as Malta or Gibraltar. This barrier of access of course acts as a great deterrent to illegal providers. They have therefore supported the collection of signatures for a referendum with notable contributions. With the argument of Internet censorship they are undermining the efforts of the Confederation and the cantons to provide a large part of the revenue from the online game of charitable status and to ensure effective player protection.”

“With the rejection of the gambling law, the online gambling market remains an illegal market,” he explained. “Gambling addiction would probably increase, because on the illegal Internet sites players can play unhindered, whilst in Switzerland they are protected. In view of the strong growth of the online market, AHV, culture, sports and environmental and social projects in Switzerland would lose several hundred million francs per year in the medium term, because the online money game providers from Malta, Gibraltar, etc. are not obliged to do so Almost half (casinos) or whole (lottery companies) give their income for charitable purposes in Switzerland.”

“The Loterie Romande, Swisslos and the Swiss casinos trust in the face of this danger that the Swiss voters clearly accept the gambling law at the ballot box and will put an end to illegal online money game providers, as most other European countries already do. The Swiss Casinos Group has a strong commitment to sports, as well as social, cultural and tourist projects in all its locations, and has been committed to its responsibility in preventing gambling addiction and money laundering for many years. We live and represent local values and are committed to Switzerland and its people. We will continue this commitment over the next few years and prove it on a daily basis.”

There has been speculation that international online operators could gain access by forming partnerships with locally licensed, land-based gaming operators but the government’s position on this remains to be seen.

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