Switzerland looks set to become the latest country to regulate online gaming and to make it legal for online casinos to be operated from within its borders.
The Federal Government has submitted a draft of a bill which would mean that the nineteen land-based casinos already operating in cities around the country would be able to extend their current operations to include online gaming for Swiss residents.
As yet, there is no mention of the market being open to foreign companies—at this stage, it is restricted to Swiss casinos already with operating licences. The bill, which is currently under discussion and consultation, would also see all winnings exempted from income tax. However, casinos would continue to pay the current levy that is imposed on them, the proceeds of which contribute significant sums to the country’s social security and pension fund.
It is believed that the draft bill is an attempt by the Swiss government to arrest the steady decline in gambling revenues that has been taking place since 2007—down 8% in the period until 2012—and which is largely attributed to the popularity of online gaming in Switzerland. The country’s Casino Federation has long been expressing concern at this ongoing fall in revenue, which decreased by a further 1.5% in 2013 alone. However, the popularity of online gambling is not the only cause, as falling tourist numbers and Europe-wide financial austerity have also contributed to the decline.
Nevertheless, it is estimated that the Swiss online gaming market is currently worth NZD$128 million annually, all of which leaves the country, as it is only legal for Swiss residents to play at international online casinos. The bill makes no provision for the granting of online gaming licences to foreign-owned casinos or gaming companies, nor at this stage does it appear to suggest any particular incentives that will be on offer to lure Swiss players away from international gaming sites to those run by local casinos.
The country’s 26 individual cantons would ultimately be responsible for the licensing of online casinos within their jurisdiction, but there would be a federal body charged with creating and administering the governing legislation, and promoting the industry nationwide.
The bill also takes into consideration details regarding the implementation of responsible gambling policies and accreditation by independent third party agencies of the casinos’ operations. The consultation period for the draft bill is set to end on 20 August.