No more access to online casinos without a Swiss license
Published by Giselle
June 25, 2019 9:55 pm
From 1st July 2019, it will no longer be possible in Switzerland to access the websites of online casinos that do not hold a licence in Switzerland. The access restrictions laid down in the Money Gaming Act are intended to ensure that Swiss players no longer play on foreign sites, as the operators of these sites do not pay any social security contributions in Switzerland and, according to the Federal Gaming Commission (SFGB), do not do enough to protect players.
The last hour of foreign casinos
With a clear majority of 72.9%, the Swiss voted by referendum on 10th June 2018 in favour of the new Money Gaming Act, which came into force on 1st January 2019. The law not only extended the licences of Swiss casinos by six years but also created the legal basis for them to offer online casino games in the future.
Four of Switzerland’s 21 licensed casinos received their first licences to operate their online casinos from the Federal Council at the beginning of the month. Since then, the Swiss have been able to play online casino games with real money on the websites of the casinos in Baden, Lucerne, Davos and Pfäffikon.
As the Swiss Federal Gaming Bank Commission (SFGB) stated in a media release on Monday, the Money Gaming Act and the associated strict allocation of online licences only make sense if access to online casinos without licences is efficiently blocked at the same time.
From 1st July this is to be made possible by means of electronic access blocking. Swiss citizens who attempt to access the websites of foreign online casinos after this deadline will receive a warning and will be informed that the content accessed is not legal in Switzerland.
The communication states that this is the case:
It is not expedient to set high standards for legal gaming services if players have easy access to illegal services that are subject to fewer restrictions and may, therefore, appear more attractive to players, at least at first glance.
The future block on access was already firmly planned when the law was adopted and defined in Article 86(1). The many foreign online casinos thus had the opportunity to withdraw from the Swiss market in good time voluntarily. However, only very few did so.
Blocking lists accessible to Swiss citizens
In principle, the goal of the SFGB is simple: only Swiss casinos with a Swiss online licence should be allowed to operate online casinos within their national borders.
However, Swiss Internet users have so far been able to access countless online casinos and play for real money. The SFGB’s task is, therefore, to comb the entire network for providers who have not independently blocked their casinos for the Swiss market.
The SFGB and the Lottery and Competition Commission (Comlot) will, therefore, draw up blacklists of all illegal online casinos. The list is to be updated continuously and each decision formally announced by a reference in the Federal Gazette. Players can view the official blacklists at any time on the websites of the authorities.
The list of licensed casinos will also continue to be available on the SFGB website and will be updated as new online licences are issued.
Swiss casinos for Swiss players
Given the huge number of international online casinos, it can be estimated that the blacklist will become very long. However, the list of Swiss casinos with online licences will be much shorter.
The Money Gaming Act stipulates in principle that only the physical Swiss casinos may extend their services to the Internet. There will be no pure online casinos without a licensed casino on Swiss soil.
Unless new casinos are built in Switzerland, a maximum of 21 online licences can be awarded. The main reason for this is that the Federal Council wants to ensure that taxes and social security contributions are paid as planned.
Currently, all Swiss casinos with gross gaming revenues of up to CHF 10 million are required to pay a casino levy of at least 40%. For every additional million CHF, the tax rate increases by 0.5 %. The upper limit of the levy is 80%. The funds flow directly into the old-age, survivors’ and disability insurance.
For the incomes from online Casinos, however different yardsticks are to be set. On gross gaming revenues of up to CHF 3 million, 20% levies are to be paid. For every further million, the rate will rise by 5%, also up to an upper limit of 80%.
However, other standards are to be set for income from online casinos. On gross gaming revenues of up to CHF 3 million, 20% levies are to be paid. For every additional million, the rate will increase by 5%, also up to an upper limit of 80%.
In addition to the levies, however, the security of players, especially in the new online area, is also a major issue in the Federal Council. In order to obtain a licence to offer online games, Swiss casinos must be able to prove that efficient measures have been taken to protect players and prevent gambling addiction.
It remains to be seen how the Swiss gaming market will develop in the future. The current licences are initially valid for six years, i.e. until 31 December 2024. By then, at the latest, it will have become clear how the new Money Gaming Act will affect the market.