Switzerland Moves To Block Foreign Gambling Sites
Last week, the Czech government ruled it constitutional to blacklist foreign gambling domains it deemed non-compliant with gaming rules set by the European country’s regulating body.
According to local media reports, the latest such push for stifled foreign influence on a country’s gaming markets has come from Switzerland, which is poised to enact a similar blockage of online gambling sites operating outside the country’s borders.
The Swiss House of Representatives held a vote on Wednesday in regard to the proposed blocking of internet gambling sites that have not been licensed by local authorities. Which is curious considering that lawmakers have asserted that foreign gambling operators will not be permitted to obtain licenses to operate within Swiss borders as a result of the new law. The outcome was in favor of the proposal, thus completing the second hurdle overcome in signing such legislation into law. The bill had already been approved by the Senate last year.
When asked for comment on the decision center-right Radical Party representative Thierry Burkart said, “Blocking websites works – experience abroad demonstrates that.” However, ISPs disagree, pointing to examples of the same policies implemented elsewhere having little effect on the online gambling industry due to the many ways players can circumvent such roadblocks, such as virtual private networks (VPN).
The efforts are backed largely by Swiss land-based casino, betting, and lottery operators. Operators in Switzerland argue that they are losing significant revenue as a result of competition from internet gambling operations headed by external entities. However, just as was found in Czech last month, gambling operators have found significant opposition from domestic Telecommunications companies. Namely, their opposition is derived from the costs associated with the proposed legislation.
Local ISPs make the same case just as those in Czech Republic did last month, whereby it is believe such legislation shoulders the burdensome costs that come with IP blocking activities onto the telecommunications companies. Telecoms suggest it should be the Swiss gambling operators who foot the bill, as they will reap the benefits of the proposal.
Wednesday’s House meeting was not without the voice of opposition either, as Swiss People’s Party and Green Party representatives asserted it was not a democratic government’s place to implement such internet blockages. Franz Grütter of the People’s Party affirmed both parties’ sentiments with his comments, “Blocking isn’t in step with the liberal, democratic way of thinking. It’s what dictatorships do.” The same argument against censorship was raised in the Czech Republic last month. However, just as was true in Czech, it looks as though the plan will roll out in the near future unimpeded.
The Bottom Line
When it comes to what the government itself stand to benefit from the move, the answer seems to be not much.
Legislators have at this point failed to reach a conclusion on how players’ gambling winnings will be taxed, if at all. Sports betting and Swiss lottery winnings of up to CHF1 million, or $987,069, will have no taxes imposed upon them. Many House representatives desire to designate winnings derived from all forms of gambling to be tax-free.
The government will take an additional two weeks to address issues surrounding the new iGaming regulations, with the next scheduled meeting convening on March 15.
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