The online gambling laws of Switzerland are taking shape, in part mimicking the failed attempts of Quebec, Canada.
After three long years of debate, Switzerland has finally updated its laws in regards to online gambling. Officially termed the Geldspielgesetz, aka Money Gaming Act (MGA), the new laws will go into effect as of January 1, 2018.
The MGA is an update to existing gaming legislation that’s been on the books since 1923 and 1998. Neither of those renditions were adequately capable of addressing the modern world of internet gambling. As such, operators from all over the world used their ambiguous nature to assume that acceptance of Swiss players was perfectly lawful.
Swiss Online Gambling Laws
The new MGA states that online casino gambling and sports betting is legal. However, it may only be conducted by local operators who obtain a license from the Swiss government. International operators will be able to apply for a license to serve the Swiss market, but only if they partner up with a local licensee first.
This is very similar to what we’ve seen in US states like New Jersey. Major international operators like bwin.party and PokerStars were able to set up shop there, after partnering with Atlantic city casinos; Borgata and Resorts respectively. Betfair and live dealer casino supplier, Ezugi, are teamed up with Golden Nugget.
Australia recently enacted analogous legislation as well. In their case, online casinos and poker sites have been eradicated entirely, while international online sportsbooks—sports betting being the only online gambling activity legalized for regulation—can apply for a license to operate locally. However, they are not required to partner with an Australia-based company to do so.
Copying failed Online Casino Laws in Canada
Being an EU member state, Switzerland is obligated to comply with specific laws in relation to freedom of services. They seem to be disregarding that fact with one of the MGA’s provisions, which would require Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to institute an IP Block against blacklisted operators.
The IP block would prevent local residents from accessing known international gambling websites that are not licensed to accept Swiss players. This is the exact same type of IP block Quebec attempted to instigate against international operators last year.
The Canadian province went so far as to draw up the bill, vote on it, and pass it into law, before finding out just how mistaken they were in their right to do so. A number of activist groups and organizations, including ISPs and national telecommunication service authorities, opposed the bill. In the end, it was deemed unconstitutional. Subsequently, Quebec was forced to strike the provision from its law books.
A similar situation is already brewing in Switzerland. The Free Democratic Party, Green Liberal Party, and Swiss People’s Party are presently working to repeal the MGA. They have instigated petitions, and are out gathering signatures to support a referendum. They will need to collect a minimum of 50,000 valid signatures within 100 days to justify a hearing for the referendum.