Switzerland has revealed new plans for blocking online gambling from offshore operators that put full-scale implementation over a year off at best.
Long and Winding Road
The changes were discussed at iGB Live Amsterdam by Planzer Law partner Dr. Simon Planzer. The co-leader of the European and Swiss facing law firm called the latest legislative developments in Switzerland indicators of a long road to developing an online gambling framework.
Planzer clarified at the conference that despite the Swiss Parliament’s recent approval of the Money Gaming Act (MGA) in 2017, the new online gambling laws could still take years to implement.
The Latest Proposals
The latest developments are in reference to a June 10th referendum which calls for increased restrictions that include a blanket ban on online services offered by international operators.
The new legislation was put forth as a result of the Swiss government’s finding that citizens spend some CHF250m ($253m; £189m) annually on unregulated foreign betting sites.
Critics of the bill point out that the move designed to increase tax revenues from iGaming would initially at least cost the government far more due to stipulations that raise the threshold on taxable winnings from 1,000 Swiss francs to one million.
In public vote, this and concerns regarding online censorship nonetheless fell by the wayside, with most of the vote in ultimately supporting the new gambling act at the rate of 72.9%.
With the laws over a year off at earliest, it looks as if the Swiss market will remain isolated from iGaming for 2019.
For now, residents of Switzerland’s residents will be able to gamble online at sites offered by the country’s 21 land-based casinos, which until now have been land-based only.
Unlicensed in Switzerland, international operators will be subject to blacklisting as enforced by government firewalling, a measure decried by net-neutrality and anti-censorship groups within the country as Europe’s most restrictive online-gambling framework.
MGA provisions include mandate a tightly monitored ring-fenced regime; caps on the number of licenses weighted in favour of Swiss gambling enterprises; online betting and gambling licenses certified directly by the Swiss government; stricter internet and banking restrictions via IP blocks; bans on third-party marketing; limits on banking transactions; and added taxes beyond the current 20% rate.
The Swiss Market
Despite these unsightly adjustments, the Swiss market is going to remain highly attractive to operators. The low 8.5 million population and high liquidity of the region ensures so, driven by the highest revenue median per adult in the world.
Cantons Still to Speak
The bright spot for operators looking to gain entry more rapidly to Switzerland is that iGaming regulation structure and policy implementation is ultimately not the government’s decision, but left in the hands of each of Switzerland’s 26 cantons to approve. Resistance from the Cantons could still lead to significant changes in the final Switzerland iGaming draft, conceivably in operators’ favour by making the Switzerland market more hospitable sooner.
In an economy that is already sustaining large concentrations of wealth, maybe the Swiss government doesn’t care to encourage foreign entrants to access the coffers of its citizenry and banks.