Switzerland to allow land-based casinos to launch online gambling sites

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Switzerland’s government has proposed legislation that would officially authorize the country’s land-based casinos to begin offering online gambling services.

On Wednesday, Swiss legislators submitted a bill that would allow operators of the country’s 21 brick-and-mortar casinos to launch online gambling sites. However, the legislation wouldn’t take effect until 2019, a date that Swiss Federation of Casinos called “far too late.”

Switzerland has been contemplating regulating its online gambling market for years now, while criticizing international operators like Bwin.party digital entertainment for continuing to serve Swiss punters without the government’s official blessing. International online gambling operators would be subject to IP-blocking under the new legislation.

As with previous drafts, the new legislation includes a punter-friendly clause that would exempt all gambling winnings, including lottery jackpots, from taxation. At present, both lottery and sports betting winnings are subject to taxation, while casino winnings are exempt.

The casino lobby welcomed the proposal, noting that industry profits had fallen 30% since 2007. However, the casino group said their members should be allowed to offer a wider variety of online products, including sports betting, poker and lottery games, because they are the most competent observers of responsible gambling safeguards, and thus restrictions from offering these products made no sense.

Furthermore, the new tax emptions are expected to cost the state 120m Swiss francs (US $123.3m) per year. To make up the shortfall, casinos say the government must ensure that the new gambling options are sufficiently compelling to attract enough interest from punters.

The legislation would also allow poker games to be conducted outside casinos, provided the games feature low buy-ins and the total stakes were returned to players. However, the legislation doesn’t specify what constitutes low stakes, and an anonymous player told Le Matin that if the limit were set too low, the legislation would do little to curb the spread of illegal poker games.

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