Swiss to place bets on gambling law in high stakes referendum

Swiss to place bets on gambling law in high stakes referendum

GENEVA
Swiss to place bets on gambling law in high stakes referendum

Swiss voters will decide on June 10 whether to back a new gambling law designed to prevent addiction and allow some online betting, or reject what opponents say amounts to internet censorship.

Recent polls indicate a clear majority plan to support the new law, which has already been passed by both houses of parliament, and now is being put to a high-stakes referendum.

The Swiss government says the Gambling Act updates legislation for the digital age, while raising protections against addiction.

If approved by voters, the law would be among the strictest in Europe and would only allow casinos and gaming companies certified in Switzerland to operate, including on the internet.

This would enable Swiss companies for the first time to offer online gambling, but would basically block foreign-based companies from the market.

This aspect of the law in particular spurred a coalition, made up primarily of the youth wings of various political parties, to gather more than the 50,000 signatures needed to launch a referendum.

Opponents have slammed Bern for employing “methods worthy of an authoritarian state,” with a measure that they claim is “censorship of the internet.”

“This sets a very dangerous precedent,” Luzian Franzini, co-president of The Greens’ youth wing and head of the campaign against the new law, told AFP.

Swiss Justice Minister Simonetta Sommaruga, however, insists that allowing only Swiss-based companies to sell gambling services is “indispensable” to ensure that everyone in the space adheres to strict rules, like blocking known addicts.

According to Addiction Switzerland, some 75,000 people in the small Alpine nation of 8.3 million inhabitants suffer from gaming addiction, costing the society more than half a billion Swiss francs [half a billion dollars] annually.

Bern also wants all of the companies’ proceeds to be taxed in Switzerland, with revenues helping fund anti-addiction measures, as well as social security and sports and culture programs.

Swiss, referendum, gambling