Online Gambling Legislation in Other Federal Countries: Switzerland

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Switzerland is a country under a federal system with three levels: the confederation, cantons, and communes. This is about the same case with the United States of America whose federal government is made of the legislative, executive, and judicial branches. These two countries have in common their federal nature which gives autonomy to the states and cantons in the US and Switzerland respectively. However, on a gambling legislation level, it can be observed that US states opt for more divergent laws whereas, on the Swiss side, the regulations are more centralized with very few differences between cantons. It’s also worth mentioning that all three German-speaking countries went their own way: Austria remained neutral towards gambling by not adopting any strict regulations, while German casino websites need to acquire the German gambling license, under which the operators may only offer slots. Let’s take a moment to explore the online gambling legislation in Switzerland to understand what is expected of Swiss casino providers.

The Gaming and Gambling Regulatory System of Switzerland

Switzerland’s federal system of government allows for low making at the canton levels. The very first gambling legislation was part of the Swiss Federal Constitution of 1874 and from that time, the sector was under the Federal Justice and Police Department. In the early 2000s, the gambling and land-based casino industry began flourishing and the constitution was amended to recognize two kinds of gaming activities. Per Article 18 of the Swiss Federal Constitution, 1998, casino games are under the Federal Act on Games of Chance. As for bets, bingo, and lotteries, they are governed by the Federal Act on Lotteries. Prize competitions and games that require skill do not fall under federal laws and are thus regulated by the laws of the cantons.

Essentially, the gaming legislation of Switzerland ensures the provision of safe and transparent gambling activities. It aims to prevent the harmful effects of gambling on society by permitting gambling operations solely inside cantons. The legislation also plays the role of intercepting and handling money laundering-related activities.

Apart from the legislation, the SFGB (Swiss Federal Gaming Board) is a cantonal and federal supervisory organ for casinos and games of chance. The board acts independently and is answerable to the Deral Council. The SFGB is an affiliation of the Federal Department of Justice and began its activities on April 1st, 2000.

Evolution of the Swiss Gambling Industry

Over the years, the gaming and gambling market of Switzerland has been greatly transformed owing to deregulation. This process began in 1993 at a time when about 75% of Swiss voted for the reintroduction of casino gambling after the ban. A significant change has thus been observed since 2000 starting from card halls to illegal card rooms and now the well-established gambling industry that it is. By 2010, urban areas encompassed seven big A-type and 12 B-type casinos. Although just 19 in number, these casinos were able to generate an estimated gross revenue of about CHF900 million. About a year later, in June 2011, the Federal government granted two types of casino licenses. A-type license goes to Swiss casinos that open in Zurich and B-type to FBAMNeuchatel SA in Neuchatel. The main difference between the two types of casino licenses lies in how big the stakes can be.

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In April 2020, the Federal government re-awarded casino licenses, 10 A-type and 13 B-type licenses. These licenses will remain valid till December 2024 and in the meantime, the land-based casinos have authorization to provide online casino games. In other words, for an online casino in Switzerland to be licensed, it must have a licensed and operational land-based casino. This is rendered possible by an additional clause on online gambling legislation which entered into force on January 1st, 2019. To be eligible, casino operators must obtain a license extension issued by the Federal Council and accompanying it must be the ESBK’s approval for individual games.

Today, there are 21 functional and regulated land-based casino providers, making it one of the countries with the highest casino density in the world. Their respective online casinos typically have slot machines, blackjack, poker, roulette, and other table games alongside a live casino section. Cash and bonus spin bonuses are also available and can often be activated only by deposits above 10 CHF. Some accepted payment methods you could use are Twint, Apple Pay, Paysafecard, Bank Transfer, and Mastercard. Once your account is created, you will be expected to complete the casino’s verification process.

As expected from licensed casinos, responsible gambling is promoted, and appropriate tools are provided for self-control. Plus, there’s always a customer service team ready to assist you when the need arises. Casino gambling is thus regulated by the Federal government while betting in Switzerland is still not allowed.

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