Swiss vote to ban remote online gambling websites

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SBC News reports that 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.”

The Local (Switzerland) said that ppponents have slammed Bern for employing “methods worthy of an authoritarian state”, with a measure that they claim is “censorship of the internet.” “This sets a very dangerous precedent,” Luzian Franzini, co-president of The Greens’ youth wing and head of the campaign against the new law, told AFP before the vote.

Swiss Justice Minister Simonetta Sommaruga, however, insists that allowing only Swiss-based companies to sell gambling services is “indispensable” to ensure that everyone adheres to strict rules, like blocking known addicts. According to Addiction Switzerland, some 75,000 people in the small Alpine nation of 8.3 million inhabitants suffer from gaming addiction, costing society more than half a billion Swiss francs (half a billion dollars)  annually.

Bern also wants all of the companies’ proceeds to be taxed in Switzerland, with revenues helping fund anti-addiction measures, as well as social security and sports and culture programmes. According to the government, Swiss gamblers spend around 250 million Swiss francs annually on unregulated betting sites abroad that pay nothing into public coffers.

Sommaruga has said that the new gambling law was needed “to stop this haemorrhaging.”

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