Online gambling is a popular and lucrative activity that attracts millions of players worldwide. However, not all countries have the same legal framework for regulating and licensing online gambling operators. In this essay, we will explore the current situation of online gambling in Switzerland, one of the most developed and prosperous countries in Europe. We will examine the history, the legislation, the benefits and the challenges of online gambling in Switzerland, and answer the question: is online gambling legal in Switzerland?
History of online gambling in Switzerland
Switzerland has a long tradition of gambling, dating back to the 19th century when the first casinos were established. However, until 1993, gambling was prohibited by the Swiss Federal Constitution. In 1993, a referendum was held to amend the constitution and allow limited-stakes casino games. In 2000, another referendum was held to legalize unlimited-stakes casino games and create two types of licenses: A for large casinos and B for small casinos. The Swiss Federal Gaming Board (SFGB) was established as the regulatory authority for casino gambling.
Online gambling, however, remained illegal and unregulated until 2019, when a new law came into force: the Federal Act on Money Games (AMG). The AMG replaced the previous laws on casino games, lotteries and betting, and introduced a comprehensive framework for all types of money games, including online gambling. The AMG was approved by a referendum in 2018, with 72.9% of voters supporting it.
Legislation of online gambling in Switzerland
The AMG regulates online gambling in Switzerland according to the following principles:
- Online gambling is permitted only if the operator has a Swiss license.
- Online casino licenses are available only to existing Swiss land-based casino operators for the first six years after the entry into force of the AMG (2019-2024). Thereafter, there will be a new call for tenders for the limited number of licenses. Anyone can apply, including providers from abroad.
- Online lottery and sports betting licenses are limited and granted only to the two existing Swiss operators: Swisslos and Lotterie Romande.
- Online skill games are exempted from the AMG and do not require a license if they meet certain criteria: they are carried out for a short period of time to promote sales, they do not pose a risk of excessive money gambling, and they are free or require purchasing goods or services at market prices.
- Online gambling operators must comply with strict requirements regarding player protection, money laundering prevention, social responsibility and taxation.
- Online gambling operators must block access to their websites from players located in foreign countries where online gambling is illegal or unregulated.
- The Swiss authorities can order internet service providers to block access to foreign online gambling websites that do not have a Swiss license or that target Swiss players illegally.
Benefits of online gambling in Switzerland
The legalization and regulation of online gambling in Switzerland has several benefits for the country, such as:
- Generating additional revenue for the state, the cantons and the public benefit organizations that support social, cultural and sports projects.
- Protecting players from fraud, addiction and exploitation by ensuring fair and responsible gaming practices by licensed operators.
- Promoting innovation and competition in the gaming industry by allowing new entrants and foreign providers to participate in the market under certain conditions.
- Enhancing Switzerland’s reputation as a modern and progressive country that embraces digitalization and adapts to changing consumer preferences.
Challenges of online gambling in Switzerland
The legalization and regulation of online gambling in Switzerland also poses some challenges for the country, such as:
- Balancing the interests of different stakeholders, such as land-based casinos, online operators, players, regulators and public benefit organizations.
- Ensuring effective enforcement and compliance with the AMG and preventing illegal or unauthorized online gambling activities.
- Dealing with potential legal disputes or conflicts with foreign jurisdictions that have different or incompatible laws on online gambling.
- Monitoring and evaluating the social and economic impacts of online gambling on Swiss society.
Online gambling is legal in Switzerland since 2019, when the AMG came into force. The AMG provides a comprehensive and coherent framework for regulating all types of money games, including online gambling. The AMG aims to protect players, prevent money laundering, generate revenue for public benefit purposes and foster innovation and competition in the gaming industry. However, online gambling also entails some challenges for Switzerland, such as ensuring effective enforcement, balancing stakeholder interests and addressing potential legal issues. Therefore, Switzerland needs to constantly monitor and evaluate the development and performance of its online gambling market and adapt its legislation and policies accordingly.
- Q: How can I play online casino games in Switzerland?
- A: You can play online casino games in Switzerland only if you register with a licensed Swiss online casino operator. You can find a list of licensed online casinos on the website of the SFGB. You must be at least 18 years old and have a Swiss bank account to play online casino games in Switzerland.
- Q: How can I tell if an online gambling website is legal or illegal in Switzerland?
- A: You can check if an online gambling website is legal or illegal in Switzerland by looking for the official logo of the SFGB or the Comlot (the Intercantonal Lottery and Competition Commission) on the website. You can also consult the blacklist of foreign online gambling websites that are blocked by the Swiss authorities on the website of the SFGB or the Comlot.
- Q: How much tax do I have to pay on my online gambling winnings in Switzerland?
- A: According to the AMG, online gambling winnings are tax-free up to CHF 1 million. Winnings above CHF 1 million are subject to withholding tax at the federal level and income tax at the cantonal and communal level. The tax rates vary depending on the canton and the type of game. You can find more information on the taxation of online gambling winnings on the website of the Federal Tax Administration.