According to the Swiss Digital Society, Switzerland’s newly approved gambling law is facing a lot of heat with its opponents having garnered just enough valid signatures to initiate a referendum. Swiss laws allow the citizens of the country to contest any bill with a referendum as long as they can manage to gather at least 50,000 valid signatures. The necessary 50,000 signatures to initiate the referendum will be submitted on Thursday, January 18th – the Swiss Digital Society only collected a fraction of the signatures with the majority being gathered by youth organizations of four Swiss parties – they included the Free Democratic Party, the Swiss People’s Party, the Green Liberal Party and the Green Party. They all began the signature gathering initiative back in mid-October 2017 and they had until January 18th to collect all the necessary 50,000 signatures in preparation for the referendum – as of now they have collected well over 65,000 signatures, 25,000 of which have already been certified.
To be more specific, members of the aforementioned youth organizations are contesting Switzerland’s Money Gaming Act which was approved by the Swiss government in October 2017 as well. The law was drafted to replace some of the outdated laws from 1923 and 1998 but some of the provisions that were introduced turned out to be a bit too controversial due to their restrictive nature.
Why is the New Law Being Contested?
Switzerland’s Money Gaming Act legalized the provision of online gambling services to Swiss players from 2017 in an effort to make the country’s regulatory framework more responsive to contemporary demand. The new law, on the other hand, prohibits foreigners from operating in Switzerland which means that only local operators with a physical presence are allowed to offer services to the Swiss online gambling market. To ascertain that no online gaming provider outside Sweden does not offer any online services to the Swiss bettors, the new law further makes it a requirement for Swiss internet service providers to restrict access to international online gaming operations whether unlicensed or not.
A number of youth political organizations are lobbying specifically against the latter. They are of the opinion that the local internet service providers will be violating the principles for the free movement of services and free and unobstructed access to internet-based services by blocking access to international licensed online gambling sites. The political organizations have further raised red flags by pointing out that in the future politicians could eventually adopt similar measures to restrict or obstruct other internet services such as music and video streaming.