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Alexandra Körner and Andreas Glarner: Interview with legal experts on the issue of gambling in Switzerland

29 October 2019, 13:15
Votes: 1

Dr. Andreas Glarner, Legal Partner, MME, and Dr. Alexandra Körner, Senior Legal Associate, MME, have shared their knowledge regarding the situation on the Swiss gambling market.

Alexandra Körner and Andreas Glarner: Interview with legal experts on the issue of gambling in Switzerland

How does the Swiss legislation compare in general terms with the legislation in other European jurisdictions? Does Switzerland take an example from other states' regulations that have proved to be successful?

Like other European countries, Switzerland knows a licensing regime for casino and (sports-)betting services. With the new legislation that entered into force on 1 January 2019, Switzerland legalised the offering of online casino and betting services. However, unlike in other European jurisdictions legislations, Switzerland did not open its market for all online providers, but only Swiss casinos are allowed to offer these online casino and betting services. In addition, foreign providers are foreclosed by the implementation of DNS blocking measures. Such blocking measures are also known to some other European countries. If the approach taken by the Swiss legislator has a chance to be successful, it is at least doubtful and among market experts considered to be unlikely. If they are successful, it is a matter of disagreement.

The Swiss Money Gambling Act came into effect in January this year. One of its aims is combating gambling addiction in the country. In your opinion, will it suffice to cope with the problem? Is there any need to take additional measures to reduce the number of people who are addicted to gambling?

The new legislation aims to enforce the player protection by implementing stricter and some new responsible gaming regulations. These aim particularly at intensifying the social responsibility of casinos, the transparency of the gameplay as well as at a strong regulation of advertisement for gambling products, etc. The new legislation only entered into force in January 2019. It remains to be seen if the new regulations are successful in combating gambling addiction.

The new gambling law clearly explains what consequences illegal operators will face. On the other hand, there is no information regarding punishment for Swiss citizens conducting gambling activities at unlicensed sites. Does it mean that the law will not be very strict towards them?

Unlicensed providers operating in or out of Switzerland face criminal sanctions whereas websites of foreign providers of online gambling services operating from outside Switzerland are blocked by DNS blocking measures. As using gambling services that are not licensed in Switzerland is legal, Swiss players (i.e. players gambling from Switzerland) will not face any sanctions if they play on unlicensed or even on blocked websites.

What measures will be taken for monitoring if the Swiss citizens abide by the gambling law?

The same mechanisms apply to the enforcement of the new gambling legislation as to other laws. In addition, the two supervisory bodies (Federal Gambling Commission and the Lotteries- and Betting Commission) monitor the Swiss market. But again, it needs to be pointed out that using gambling services that are not licensed in Switzerland is legal. Accordingly, the authorities may not monitor the gambling activities from players from a compliance perspective.

What are the prospects of gambling in Switzerland in the future? What would you suggest to change in this industry?

All current land-based casino licences expire at the end of 2024. The Federal Council will have to decide whether all licences will be renewed or if there will be less (or more?) land-based licences after 2025. Currently, there are 4 online casinos operating in Switzerland with more applicants for a licence in the pipeline. We expect that within the next couple of years, the Swiss online gambling market will have consolidated and it will become clear how many online casinos can operate in Switzerland. In our opinion, only if the Swiss online casinos achieve to offer comparable services as the well-known foreign providers, Swiss players would turn to the local online offers and no longer play on foreign sites.

ESBK has conducted a research according to which state lotteries are the most popular type of gambling in Switzerland. In your opinion, why lotteries and not, for instance, bookmakers or casinos?

In our opinion, this is due to tradition in Switzerland. Lotteries have been part of Swiss culture for centuries whereas the first proper casinos only opened in 2002/2003. 

The average number of people gambling on a regular basis has decreased in Switzerland. Could this be attributed to the fact that the local regulator is fighting illegal gambling websites?

This could be a reason, however, we could also imagine that with the blocking, players who play on foreign websites can no longer be monitored. 

The blacklist of illegal gambling domains – what do you think of its efficiency?

On the one hand, blacklisting serves to inform telecommunication service providers which websites have to be blocked. On the other hand, we believe that the public lists are meant to have a deterrent effect on foreign providers, since blacklisting may lead to problems in other regulated markets in which these providers hold a licence.

The blacklists currently in place are still in an early stage of content and we do expect these to get more comprehensive over time.

As mentioned earlier, in September Swiss gambling regulators published the list of online gaming companies whose operation in the country is prohibited.

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