Mia Gardner | 12 Jul 2019
Gambling operators have had free reign to work without a licence in Switzerland for many years, as lawmakers had no mechanisms in place to control or prevent this. Consequently, the gambling industry flourished and grew.
In June 2018 a bill was passed to impose more rules on foreign involvement in the Swiss gambling industry. It was entered into law after being voted for and approved by the Eidgenössische Spielbankenkommission (ESBK set to come into effect on July 1st). What it meant was that all international online gambling operators still interested in offering their services in the new and regulated Swiss market would need to be in a relationship with a local land-based operation before they would even be considered for an online gambling licence.
Up until now, Switzerland has issued only four iGaming licences, in the regions of Lucerne, Davos, Pfaffikon and Baden. These licences were activated on July 1st and the country has warned that there will be clampdowns on illegal online operators. Unlicensed iGaming operators will have their Internet accounts blocked, and anyone trying to circumvent the system will be blacklisted from the Swiss market entirely, and is liable to be criminally charged.
So effectively, the Swiss iGaming space has been shut down to the outside world. Canadian Stars Group’s flagship brand PokerStars and its offerings are not currently available to Swiss players. The online brand can come back, but only once they have found themselves a partnership that complies with all regulatory objections. Naturally, they want to avoid the pitfalls of the black market at all costs.
Although GVC pulled their partypoker and Bwin products off the shelves as far back as January, PokerStars hung around holding their cards close to their chest. Only then did they inform the Swiss market of their plan to paralyse their operation, as they were apparently unable to secure a partnership with a local casino.
Playtech has managed to enter into a deal with Casino Pfäffikon, Evolution Gaming is sweet on the Grand Casino Baden and it is rumoured that PokerStars has their eye on Casino Davos. Once the deal is made, they will reopen in Switzerland.
PokerStars is not the only renowned gambling operator to pull out from Switzerland. UK bookmaker William Hill has had to abandon its operation, quite late in the game, much to the dismay of their customers.