Geneva AFP – Swiss voters will decide on Sunday 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, agen piala dunia 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.
– Block addicts, boost revenues –
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 programmes
Sommaruga told an online forum last month that Swiss gamblers spend around 250 million Swiss francs annually on unregulated betting sites abroad that pay nothing into public coffers.
“Voting ‘yes’ to the Gambling Act would allow us to stop this hemorrhaging,” she said.
According to GREA, an association that studies addiction, Swiss gambling and betting companies pulled in nearly 1.7 billion Swiss francs in 2016, of which more than half went to “the public good”.
– ‘Generation gap’ –
But opponents claim Switzerland could make more money by issuing consensions to foreign companies that agree to be regulated and taxed.
And they charge the new law will actually drain away revenues, since it raises the threshold for taxable winnings to over one million francs, compared with 1,000 francs today.