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    Foreign online gambling operator ban approved by Swiss voters

    Published 15/06-2018

    It has been reported that voters in Switzerland yesterday agreed in a referendum that foreign online gambling operators should be blocked from providing gaming services to Swiss players.

    SwissInfo.ch reported that the Swiss parliament approved the ban in 2017, but those opposed managed to call a referendum on the issue by gathering sufficient signatures. When the matter came to a vote Sunday, 72.9% of voters backed a ban, and it will now become law on January 1, 2019.

    The Swiss Justice Minister, Simonetta Sommaruga, informed SwissInfo.ch that “Voters preferred to continue the current policy, only allowing gambling under restrictions.”

    The ban was supported by the center-right Christian Democratic People's Party, which wanted to offer protection to the 21 casinos, domestic lotteries and sports betting platforms that pay an estimated $1 billion to the Swiss exchequer each year. The party contended that allowing foreign operators to continue would mean that native cultural, sporting and social entities would miss out on one of their main sources of finance.

    Karl Vogler, one of the party's MPs, said that the low turnout (34%) referendum represented a “pragmatic decision by Swiss voters to continue with the nation's current policy of funding civil society projects with revenues from casinos and lotteries.”

    SwissInfo.ch stated that the anti-ban campaign was supported by the youth sections of several parties including the liberal FDP. Many expressed a fear that passing the ban would not only give the Swiss casino industry unfair commercial advantages but that it was opening the door to more state Internet censorship in future. Opponents also contended that the ban was overly restrictive and did not offer any additional protection for gambling addicts.

    FDP MP Marcel Dobler said in an interview with the radio station Schweizer Radio und Fernsehen that “we may have lost this battle but put the issue blocked Internet sites on the political agenda.”

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