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News has been floating around that online gambling giant, The Stars Group’s flagship brand, Pokerstars, is exploring the Swiss gambling market for ways to continue operation after the Swiss gambling market reorganization.

On January 1st 2019, the new Money Gaming Act became implemented in Switzerland. This new act opened the door for Switzerland’s 21 land-based casinos to finally start operating online casino games and betting, drawing much excitement as this has never before been legal in Switzerland. In addition to the new laws, there are also new tools which authorities can now use to clamp down on foreign online gambling operators trying to operate within Switzerland without a license. There was a referendum which was overwhelmingly approved by the Swiss public last year, approving the new laws.

Clamping down on unlicensed online gambling operations

As of the 1st of July, unlicensed gambling operations may now be blocked under the command of Eidgenössische Spielbankenkommission (ESBK) – Swiss local gambling regulator.

Only casinos that are local and land-based may operate online gambling sites under the Swiss Money Gaming Act. If foreign gambling operators would like to operate within Switzerland’s reorganized gaming space, the good news is that they can. However, in order to do so, they should form partnerships with the 21 approved land-based casinos in Switzerland.  If they try and operate within the newly reorganized Swiss gaming space without having formed these crucial partnerships, they run the risk of being blocked and blacklisted by Eidgenössische Spielbankenkommission.

Pokerstars considering their options

Although PokerStars has not yet forged the crucial partnership with Swiss land-based casinos necessary to operate within the newly reorganized Swiss gaming space yet, they have indicated that they are interested in expanding into the local market. They unfortunately did not meet the deadline of the 1st of July to become fully licensed in Switzerland, forcing a necessary and sudden interruption of service but are actively looking to get their services up and running again.

PokerStar’s spokesperson told Poker Industry Pro that they are currently investigating and executing plans which will enable them (PokerStars) to continue being a leader in the Swiss poker Market. We can assume that this means PokerStars is currently and actively searching for a Swiss local land-based casino operator so that they may remain operational in the newly reorganized Swiss local gambling sector, legally.

PokerStars aren’t the only ones who had to pause their gaming services

PokeStars aren’t the only gaming company who had to pause their services in Switzerland. GVC had to pull out Partypoker and Bwin brands in response to the new regulations, too.

Online gambling now legal in Switzerland, finally

As of July 1st 2019, online gambling in Switzerland is now fully legal under the nation’s new gambling act which has been implemented – which is great news to all Swiss online gambling fans. The Swiss Federal Council has authorized four local land-based casinos to launch online gambling operations – the remaining 17 to follow later this year. The currently approved casinos include Grand Casino Luzern, Casino Pfäffikon, Casino Davos and Grand Casino Baden.

Grand Casino Baden already ahead of the game

Standing out among the four is Grand Casino Baden and their brand, giving them an impressive competitive edge as it has been operating as a free-to-play casino for some time already, gaining an engaged consumer fan base of more than 15 000 registered players.

Major gambling providers to get involved

Major gambling providers including tech giant, Playtech, have announced their new partnerships with local Swiss casinos in order to provision their products in the newly renovated and regulated Swiss gaming space. PlayTech in particular will be partnering and powering Casino Pfäffikon’s online casino.

Evolution Gaming, live casino operator, announced that it was preparing the arrangements for the launch of its gaming products in partnership with Grand Casino Baden, last month. We were also excited to hear that iSoftBet, iGaming supplier, announced that it too has secured necessary authorization to enter the Swiss gambling market and provide the countries gamers with more than 1000 titles.

PokerStars still figuring it all out

Earlier this year PokerStars in the meantime discontinued its entire online casino and betting operations within the Swiss market in order to comply with the new Swiss online gambling regulations. While their online poker products remained operational in the local gaming space, they may not provide these services to Swiss players If they would like to avoid having regulatory action taken against them.

PokerStars has made an effort over the past several years to keep their record clean by carefully avoiding unregulated markets around the world. They need this clean record in order to prove to the US authorities that they have learnt their lesson from its post- UIGEA legal issues, (where the online poker giant was found to be accepting US players even after the US Unlawful Internet Gambling At was enforced in 2006 – getting themselves banished from the US) so that they can get involved in the US gambling sector where sports betting is now being legalized in a number of US states.

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Shihaam Isaacs


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