Swiss Gaming Act Goes into Effect on January 1, 2019
Switzerland’s Federal Council announced it will accept license applications in the first half of 2019. License applicants can apply for licenses to offer poker or casino table games like roulette, but they will have to adhere to strict regulations involving the entry fees and prizes for poker tournaments, as well as the size of small lotteries and raffles.
Under the new law, the maximum fees that poker sites can charge for entry into a tournament is CHF200 (€176/£154/$198) per contest.
The total entry fees in a year are set at CHF20,000 (€17,600/£15,400/$19,800).
Those figures certainly allow a high roller to partake in a high level of gaming throughout a calendar year. It also allows for problem gamblers to lose enough money it could cause them distress. At the same time, they could not lose enough in one year to cause the kind of debt spiral and bankruptcy which is reported to happen in other countries.
Swiss casino licenses will be issued for a 20-year time period. Once the 20-year period has ended, the license can be extended or renewed.
Swiss Gaming Act: January 2019
January 1, 2019 will be the official date when the Swiss Gaming Act goes into effect. For the time being, that only means that the Federal Council will take applications. The Federal Council plans to issue licenses to gaming companies before July 1, 2018.
On that same day, IP blocking measures will come into effect. Swiss Internet service providers plan to start block the IP addresses of gaming sites unlicensed by the Swiss government.
The Federal Council said its measures will apply to online casinos and lotteries alike. Council members said they were taking action to protect gamblers from the depredations of problem gambling.
Swiss Gambling Plebiscite
The Swiss people approved the domain blocking program in a nationwide plebiscite in June 2018. While there was much debate in parliament and some controversy among purveyors of public opinion, the measure passed by an overwhelming majority of 73% to 27%.
Opponents of the new law said Swiss residents should not give the national government the right to invade their privacy by blocking their access to certain websites. Those who opposed the Swiss Gaming Act used many of the same arguments used in the net neutrality debate.
Net Neutrality Arguments Did Not Work
It found little support. Swiss residents want their government to block illegal offshore online gambling sites. They did not buy the argument that handing away such authority would lead to a slippery slope.
As the argument goes, if the Swiss government can block gambling, then it might champion the right to block other broad types of categories it deems harmful, sinful, anti-social, seditious, or offensive. The Swiss people gave their opinion they will stand against such abuses if they ever arise.
Swedish Online Gambling States
The Federal Council said the Swiss people wager CHF250 million (€220 million/£192 million/$247 million) per year. The council believes that is an unacceptably high figure, both because it leaves countless problem gamblers in a shadow economy and because it denies the Swiss government millions in lost tax revenues per year.
The basic tax rate on online gambling is 20% with a cap of CHF3 million. Land-based casinos pay a 40% tax rate on revenues, though the government reserves the right to change the taxation level all the way up to 80%.
The government does not charge taxes on player winnings up to CHF1 million. If the winnings on lotteries or raffles exceed the cantonical levels in the canton a Swiss lottery bettor bought the ticket in, then the bettor might owe taxes on the winnings.