Last September, Swiss legislators approved changes to its gambling laws will introduce website blocking for foreign competitors to Switzerland's own gambling industry.
This domain-blocking plan, set to take effect in 2019, met with pushback from Swiss
ISPs and civil libertarians, who decided Swiss voters should have a say in this flirtation with authoritarian censorship. Swiss law allows voters a referendum on contentious legislation provided 50k citizens sign the necessary petition within 100 days of
the law's passage.
On Tuesday, Swiss media outlet Blick reported that a coalition of three political parties and the Internet Society Switzerland Chapter had so far collected around 65k signatures, of which 25k have been certified by the
state. The group has until January 18 to certify the additional 25k signatures needed for the referendum to be approved.
Andri Silberschmidt, president of the youth organization of Switzerland's Free Democratic Party, told Blick that his group was
intent on combatting digital isolation, mindful that once a government starts banning what its citizens can do online, even tighter restrictions are usually not far behind. Freedom for the economy and the internet, has great support in Switzerland.
The local casino industry, which has long complained that its falling revenue was due to competition from international gambling sites. But the most recent data from the Swiss Federation of Casinos showed the nation's 21 licensed brick-and-mortar
casinos posted a modest year-on-year revenue gain in 2016. Lottery and sports betting revenue enjoyed even larger gains in 2016, rising 8.3% year-on-year. So it appears that there are bluffs to call.
Swiss voters will decide on Sunday whether to back a new gambling law designed to restrict online gambling to a state monopoly or reject what opponents say amounts to internet censorship.
Recent polls indicate a clear majority plan support the new
law, which has already been passed by both houses of parliament, and now is being put to a referendum.
The Swiss government says the Gambling Act updates legislation for the digital age. 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.
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.
The new law represents a windfall
for Switzerland's casinos, which had put huge amounts of money into campaigning.
Opponents have slammed Bern for employing methods worthy of an authoritarian state, with a measure that they claim is censorship of the internet.
Swiss voters have
overwhelmingly approved blocking foreign-based betting sites in a referendum on a new gambling law designed to create a local monopoly.
72.9% of voters came out in favor of the new gambling law.
The law, which is set to take effect next
year, will be among the strictest in Europe, allowing only casinos and gaming companies certified in Switzerland to operate in the country, including on the internet.
It will enable Swiss companies for the first time to offer online gambling, but
will basically block foreign-based companies from the market.
Swiss gamblers will be able to bet online only with an approved monopoly of casinos and lotteries.
The provision of the new Swiss gambling law which restricts online gambling to a few authorised Swiss-based casinos comes into effect on July 1.
Last June 73% of voters approved the overhaul of the country's gambling law despite claims by opponents of government censorship.
A list of unauthorised gambling providers will be published on the websites of the Federal Gaming Commission external link and the Lotteries and Betting Commission external link . Those on the blacklist will be automatically blocked by Swiss ISPs
by means of DNS blocks.
Swiss gamblers signed up with foreign casinos will have to contact them directly for any money due as Swiss regulators have no jurisdiction over them. Or perhaps they will continue to use foreign websites using VPNs or
encrypted DNS courtesy of Firefoox
The Swiss Lottery and Betting Board has published its first censorship list of foreign gambling websites to be blocked by the country's ISPs.
The censorship follows a change to the law on online gambling intended to preserve a monopoly for Swiss
Over 60 foreign websites external link have been blocked to Swiss gamblers. Last June, 73% of voters approved the censorship law. The law came into effect in January but blocking of foreign gambling websites only started in
Swiss gamblers can bet online only with Swiss casinos and lotteries that pay tax in the country.
Foreign service providers that voluntarily withdraw from the Swiss market with appropriate measures will not be blocked.