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Swiss referendum moves to ban remote online gambling websites

Foreign gambling sites are to be banned in Switzerland, after Swiss citizens overwhelmingly backed a new gambling law, replacing the 1923 Lotteries and Betting Act and the 1998 Gambling Act, in yesterday’s (Sunday June 10) referendum.

Set to come into effect from the start of 2019, the new gambling act won a 72.9 per cent majority approvement, despite the relatively low turnout of just 33.8 per cent.

Passed through both houses of parliament, the act is set to empower the 21 casinos of Switzerland, with only Swiss certified casinos and gaming companies able to operate, and their offshore counterparts offering online gambling set to be banned.

Speaking of the overhaul, Justice Minister Simonetta Sommaruga is quoted in local media as stating “Voters prefer to continue the current policy, only allowing gambling under restrictions.”

Supports of the new gambling law point to the financial aid brought to the nation via this move, whilst also stating that blocking sites could be a necessary step in helping to tackle issues such as problem gambling.

Campaigners opposing the gambling act however, believe the move is to cost the government money, through a raising of the threshold of taxable winnings.

Parliament agreed a compromise in September of last year, therefore clearing the way for adoption of the new gambling law, which sees the limit of tax free winnings on both lotteries and sports bets rise from its previous CHF1,000 ($1,040) to CHF1 million ($1.029 million).

Opponents also claimed that by voting through this new law, the monopoly of Switzerland’s 21 casinos is maintained, with blocking of foreign sites amounting to censorship of the internet.

Under the new law Swiss casinos can offer online versions of roulette, blackjack and poker, whilst future moves would see licensed operators, of lotteries and sports betting, be permitted to offer new forms of gambling.