In Switzerland, yesterday reportedly saw voters overwhelmingly approve legislation via a referendum that is to ban foreign online gambling operators from being able to offer their services to players in the European nation.
According to a report from SwissInfo.ch, the new prohibition was initially approved by parliamentarians last year before opponents managed to gather enough signatures to force the nationwide referendum. However, this campaign ultimately proved unsuccessful on Sunday as some 72.9% of voters supported the ban, which will now go into effect from the first day of 2019.
“Voters prefer to continue the current policy, only allowing gambling under restrictions,” Swiss Justice Minister Simonetta Sommaruga told SwissInfo.ch.
The center-right Christian Democratic People’s Party had reportedly backed the campaign in favor of the prohibition as a way to help protect the estimated $1 billion the nation’s 21 casinos, as well as its domestic lotteries and sportsbetting operators, contribute towards the public purse every year. It argued that the growing influence of foreign online gambling operators could lead to local culture, sports and social organizations losing a major source of funding.
Christian Democratic People’s Party parliamentarian, Karl Vogler, described the result of the referendum, which garnered a turnout rate of only 34%, as 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 reported that the drive against the prohibition had been led by the youth wings of several political parties including that of the FDP The Liberals amid fears that its passage would provide the domestic casino industry with an unfair commercial advantage and lead to further state censorship of the Internet. Critics furthermore argued that the measure was too restrictive and would not provide adequate protections for those with gambling additions.
“We may have lost this battle but put the issue of blocked Internet sites on the political agenda,” FDP The Liberals parliamentarian, Marcel Dobler, told local public radio broadcaster, Schweizer Radio und Fernsehen (SRF).