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Referendum set for controversial Swiss online gambling legislation

An online gambling bill passed through Swiss parliament last year is set for a national referendum, reports, after a coalition of political parties succeeded in gathering enough votes to warrant a public vote.

Switzerland’s legislature passed the controversial new laws in September of 2017, with them initially set to take effect from this month.

However under its unique political system, if a group can collect at least 50,000 signatures from the nation’s citizens, the government has no choice but to issue a referendum before a bill is signed into law.

The proposed new law saw legislators approve the country’s new gambling rules, which state that land based casinos will be enabled to offer online casino and poker games for the first time.

As part of the legal amendment though, it is also required that local internet service providers (ISP) block the domains of internationally licensed gambling sites, therefore ensuring its online operations will ultimately be successful.

Following its final approval several points of opposition were voiced, one such example being from local ISP groups, who state the government is issuing extra responsibilities without the relevant financial backing.

It also argued that the proposal restricts free use of the internet, through the blocking of selected international websites, in addition to lacking a sufficient level of help for problem gamblers.

Supporters of the bill have levelled accusations at its critics, stating financial support for its opposition, and signature collecting, has been aided by foreign online casinos.

in addition to pointing to the millions of Swiss francs (CHF) that would also be spent outside of Switzerland as a result of a failure to block overseas online games.

Spearheading opposition are the Young Liberals, supported by the youth wing of the Free Democratic Party (FDP) and with assistance from the Green Party amongst others.

The groups submitted its 60,000 signatures, 10,000 more than necessary, to challenge the decision this week, with authorities now in the process of validating them before a ballot date is announced.

As part of the new law it was also detailed that punters winnings that crossed the CHF1m ($1m) barrier would be taxed, as is also the case in Switzerland’s lottery and land based sports winnings.

Poker players seeking live games could also be impacted under the proposals, with live tournaments able to be organised off casino premises for the first time.

This is on the condition that tournaments remain small scale affairs.

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