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Opinion Swiss gambling law protects players

A person prepares a roulette table at a Zurich casino.

Swiss casinos can offer online versions of roulette, blackjack and poker if a majority of voters comes out in favour on June 10.

(Keystone)

The new law on gambling meets the constitutional requirement that makes these activities subject to authorisation and regulation, says Béatrice Haeny, who supports the bill approved by the Swiss parliament. For the leader of the centre-right Radical Party in the cantonal parliament in Neuchâtel, the new legislation will also ensure players are protected.

point of view

point of view

In March 2012, 87% of voters and all cantons accepted a new wording for Article 106 of the Swiss constitution which says that:

- Gambling is an activity to be authorised by the federal government or the cantons, so that principles of economic liberalism do not apply to gambling and the number of casinos or lotteries allowed is to be set by law.

- Casinos pay tax to the cantons and thus their profits flow into the old age pension fund, which means funding of about CHF300 million ($303 million) for the fund, and for the cantons about CHF 50 million ($50.4 million).

- Proceeds of lotteries go exclusively to community welfare uses. The two main lotteries active in Switzerland redistribute over CHF 600 million every year to sports, social and cultural activities and the arts; this involves both top-level sport and also the amateur level, and includes funding for small sporting events, folk festivals, small theatres or associations with a social welfare purpose.

- Given the dangers involved in gambling, the Swiss government and the cantons take steps to ensure protection for players depending on the type of gaming involved as well as the location and manner of provision of the service.

Ethical approach

To sum up, gambling is not an activity ruled purely by economic liberalism, but is an activity authorised by government. Proceeds of gambling should not be redistributed to shareholders but should go into old age pensions and other public welfare funds. Furthermore, even though it may seem paradoxical, players need to be protected.

The new legislation on gambling corresponds to the requirements listed above, and for this reason I am supporting it.

Allowing only casinos which already have a concession to offer gambling on-line means that the availability of this kind of gambling will respect players and take an ethical approach.

Furthermore, requiring lotteries with ticket machines in public places to equip these machines with a device preventing minors from playing, as is the case for cigarette vending machines, and banning minors from casinos, will help deal with addiction to gambling.

Informing consumers of gambling on-line that they are on a gambling site forbidden in Switzerland and that they can bet on the same games on Swiss casino sites, will not only help enforce the constitutional requirement that the proceeds of gambling go to the old age pension fund or other public uses, but also help to combat current forms of money laundering, and even on-line fraud.

Example of European neighbours

It should be noted that these access restrictions are considered by all European countries, such as France and Belgium, to work well, although they can be got around and there would be no legal consequences for players who ignore warnings and play on sites of casinos operating out of Malta, Gibraltar and Antigua, among other places.

I find it surprising that those opposed to this kind of restriction often argue that if the blocking is not effective, why try to do it? What opponents of the legislation want is to allow gambling operators abroad, who will not respect our constitutional provisions, to operate in Switzerland. That is not acceptable.

For these reasons, I and the Radical Party of Neuchâtel are recommending a “yes” vote for the new legislation on gambling. 

The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of swissinfo.ch. 

Opinion series

swissinfo.ch publishes op-ed articles by contributors writing on a wide range of topics – Swiss issues or those that impact Switzerland. The selection of articles presents a diversity of opinions designed to enrich the debate on the issues discussed.


Terence MacNamee

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