Switzerland to Ban International Online Gambling Operators After Voter Referendum

Switzerland to Ban International Online Gambling Operators After Voter Referendum

Switzerland will soon be banning international online-gambling operators from offering their services to Swiss citizens, following the approval of a nationwide voter referendum on the matter. The ban, which will go into effect at the start of 2019, also includes plans for a blacklist on all international operators.

The referendum calling for the firewall on international online-gambling sites was approved by a significant 73% – 27% margin on Sunday, in a low-turnout result. As a result, only Switzerland’s 21 land-based casinos will be able to offer Swiss-authorized online services once the new rules go into effect. It is unclear from Swiss reports whether some international services will be allowed to act as third-party service providers, offering an online gaming platform for Swiss casinos desiring an interactive brand but not wanting to invest in the development cost.

Increased problem-gambling protections were included in the provisions of the new law, yet it was forced to a voter referendum by net-neutrality activists, who viewed the blacklisting as a form of internet censorship. That blacklists don’t truly work as advertised — both names and IP addresses can be quickly changed by black-market operators — was readily admitted to by the new law’s backers, who likened it to a public “stop sign” that would deter most casual users.

Karl Vogle, of Switzerland’s Christian Democratic Party, called the vote a “pragmatic decision by Swiss voters who want to continue funding civil society projects with revenue of the casinos and lotteries.” The Christian Democratic Party led parliamentary committee campaigning that helped push the blacklist into law.

On the flip side, the anti-censorship groups decried the vote’s results. The referendum was forced by three left-wing Swiss political parties, the Young Radical Liberals, the Young Liberals and the Young People’s Union. In trying to combat the new rules, these groups cited both the internet-censorship and economic-protectionism costs, with messages such as this:

INTERNET LOCK HURTS SWITZERLAND

Our economy undeniably benefits from free internet access. Locking certain foreign sites to protect the players in the Swiss market is not economically reasonable. Locking the internet is also a serious interference in economic and information freedom.

By opting for Internet lock-in, Parliament is setting a dangerous precedent that opens the door to new interference in Internet freedom and will serve as an example for those who want to block unwanted competition on the web. There is, however, a much better solution: the offer of international platforms should be integrated, the companies concerned should be regulated and taxed. We will thus provide important revenues to the cantons, the youth and the AVS / AI.

The Gambling Act is a step backwards in terms of digitization and restricts our competitiveness. That is why the Young Radical Liberals, the Young Liberals and the Young People’s Union join forces to fight against this paternalistic and backward law by launching a referendum.

Nonetheless, the vote turned out to not be close. Neither side argued that reserving or increasing funds to help battle problem gambling or to help contribute to Switzerland’s seniors-aid funding were bad; it was the process of how this market should be treated that caused the conflict.

In the long run, the vote’s results will likely force most well-respected, white-label European operators from the Swiss online space, while black-market and unreliable operators will continue offering their wares, in the balance creating a relatively higher risk for Swiss consumers.

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