Switzerland Will Block Offshore Gambling Sites Starting July 1

  • Gambling was illegal in Switzerland up until 1992
  • For many years, there was no online gambling framework in Switzerland, so residents used offshore gambling platforms
  • About $253m annually was gambled on these sites
  • A referendum to ban Swiss residents from accessing offshore platforms was approved by 72.9% of the voters
  • This ban comes into effect on July 1 and Swiss operators can for the first time offer online gambling
Flag of Switzerland atop Mannlichen
Switzerland will bane Swiss residents from accessing foreign online gambling platforms beginning July 1.

Gambling in Switzerland

Gambling was illegal in Switzerland from 1921 until 1993, when a limited form of casino gambling was legalized. Eventually, the limit on stakes ended and gamblers could gamble as much as they wanted, thanks to an amendment to the Federal Law on Games of Chance and Casinos. This led to a large increase in gambling.

The country now has 21 casinos and 11 horse racing arenas. Pari-mutuel wagering and slot machines are allowed at the tracks. More than half of the adult population of Switzerland takes part in the lottery. A national lottery is not legal, but each state has its own legal lottery. Two main companies operate these lotteries and also offer a form of sports betting.

Since 2013, the Swiss government has been looking to regulate the online gambling sector in the country. They have been struggling to stop residents from using illegal offshore gambling platforms for some time. Many different languages are used in the country, including English, Italian, German, and French, which means that people can play on countless different platforms and Swiss banks do not have a problem with processing transactions to these offshore platforms.

Official decision to ban international operators

On June 10, 2018, Swiss voters approved a referendum to curtail the gambling sector, in part by banning foreign operators offering online services to Swiss residents. This means that residents can gamble online only on a platform offered by the country’s casinos. This will create one of the most restrictive gambling frameworks in all of Europe.

Some who have concerns about censorship and net neutrality are opposed to the ban.

The authorities have been pushing for such a ban for many years, but a petition opposing it got 50,000 signatures and forced a referendum on the issue. Only 34% of the voters turned out for this referendum. The rules were approved by 72.9% of them. Authorities say that the reasons for this ban are more for consumer protection reasons than for protectionism.

Reports show that Swiss residents were spending approximately $253m (£199m) annually on offshore gambling platforms. The tax threshold for gambling winnings will increase from 1,000 Swiss francs ($1,023; £806) to 1,000,000 Swiss francs ($1.02m; £805,700), which will effectively eliminate potential gains the government could have seen by having more taxable revenue after the ban.

Ban coming into place

The ban on offshore gambling operators will take effect on July 1. The federal commission in charge of the various aspects of the gambling sector, such as sports betting, lotteries, and gambling will soon publish a blacklist of online gambling platforms that will be no longer be accessible.

While there was a lot of opposition, the government says that this move will help the authorities to better manage problem gambling issues and bring legislation into the digital age. Currently, about 75,000 people in a population of 8.3 million people struggle with gambling addiction. This has a societal cost of about half a billion Swiss francs each year.

Only those gaming companies certified to operate in Switzerland can now offer online gambling. This is the first time that Swiss companies can offer such a service, so they will see a nice uptick in their revenues.