Switzerland Prepares For June 10th Legalized iGambling Referendum

Switzerland Prepares For June 10th Legalized iGambling Referendum

On June 10th, Switzerland will hold a national referendum to decide whether the ‘Money Gaming Act’ passed by the Swiss Parliament in September 2017 can be implemented next year in its present form.

The piece of legislation paves the way for land-based casinos and local partners to offer legalized online gambling in Switzerland, although a negative vote would mean delaying the process by 2-3 years as the act would have to return to parliament for further debate.

Despite passing the legislature last September, a national referendum was forced by youth groups representing the Swiss People’s Party, the Free Democratic Party and the Green Liberal Party, who on January 18th submitted a 50,000 signature petition to parliament calling for international operators to be allowed in the country. Nevertheless, there are indications that the new act may still be upheld after a recent poll suggested that 58 percent of people are in favor of maintaining the international ban.

Money Gaming Act

The Money Gaming Act unites casino games and lotteries in a single Act, whilst placing regulation and legalization of the gambling industry in the hands of the federal government. Furthermore, the legislation allows online gambling in the country provided that it is offered by Swiss operators, with a blacklist of all foreign gambling sites being drawn up to enable Internet Access Providers to fulfill their duty in blocking access to all foreign gambling sites.

According to Swiss Casinos Group CEO Marc Baumann, however, this should not present too much of a concern for international companies as the federal government intends to impose one of Europe’s highest tax rates on the industry, thus making it unattractive to foreign firms.

While the proposed tax rates are still under debate, the federal council has suggested levying 20 percent on the first CHF3m ($3m) in revenue, increasing to 40 percent up to CHF10m, and rising incrementally to 80 percent at its highest level. Casinos located in the Davos or St. Moritz area will be granted preferential rates, though, in order to encourage tourism in these mountainous regions.

Youth Wings of Political Parties

It was youth political groups from the country’s center-right and right parties who originally opposed the Act and managed to garner the required 50,000 signatures to force a nationwide referendum on the issue. In addition, Swiss residents in the 18-29 year old age group also seem to be vehemently opposed to the legislation over online restrictions placed on international operators.

In the meantime, the recent swing in support of accepting the Money Gaming Act is apparently a result of expected revenue declines in the casino and lottery industries, which will subsequently result in less funding for various social service schemes, such as pension funds. Amongst the various groups earmarked to benefit from the proposed high taxes are old age pensioners and specific Swiss cantons, while lottery proceeds will exclusively be funneled towards community projects, such as sporting events, and cultural festivals.

Nationwide Opinion Poll

Ahead of the June 10th national referendum, research institute GfS Bern conducted a poll indicating that 58% of respondents are in favor of the Money Gaming Act in its present form. That figure is up by 6% compared to a previous poll commissioned by the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation, although the 37% who voted against leaves 5% of respondents still undecided.

Commenting upon the number of undecided voters, Lukas Golder, co-director of GfS Bern, said that the gambling legislation referendum has not attracted sufficient interest from the general public, despite the huge social media campaign being launched by authorities. Nevertheless, the signs currently look good for the Money Gaming Act to secure enough voters to pass into law, and as Lukas Golder explains:

“The trend is clearly in favor of parliament and the government. Barring a major upset in the final phase of the debate, we expect the reform to win a majority.”

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