Big changes are coming to online betting in Switzerland. The country prohibited internet gambling for years (in theory as there was no enforcement), but that is changing due to the new Money Gaming Act passed by parliament in 2017.
You could summarize the legal situation as follows: online betting was illegal on paper but people were doing it in great numbers anyways. Rather than institute harsher measures to put an end to online betting in Switzerland for good, the government opted to legalize and regulate the activity – provided Swiss betting sites acquire licenses to host real money games and betting online.
Best Swiss Betting Sites
Online sports betting, casino games and poker are not permitted under Swiss gaming laws with the passage of the Money Gaming Act. The act is still in its very early phases having just been passed in late September of 2017. Barring a voter referendum (which we will discuss in a bit), the act should take effect at some point in 2019.
Currently, most of the world’s largest betting sites still accept players from Switzerland, support Swiss franc deposits and support the German, French and Italian languages. Getting started is as simple as choosing a website and signing up for an account.
This could all be changing soon, however, as the new Money Gaming Act will require a license for betting sites to accept players from Switzerland. The act also gives the government the authority to compel local internet service providers to block access to unlicensed gambling sites that insist to accept Swiss players contrary to local law.
The Commission Fédérale des Maisons de Jeu (roughly “Federal Gambling Houses Board”) makes it pretty clear that it is illegal to operate a game of chance by the use of an “electronic communication network” such as the internet. However, the commission also notes that there are no penalties for players who only participate in a private capacity.
Money Gaming Act Passed in 2017
Swiss parliament voted on and passed the Money Gaming Act near the end of September in 2017. The law as passed included most of the proposals that were suggested in previous years. The primary change the Money Gaming Act brings to the gaming industry in Switzerland is to allow land-based casinos to apply for licenses to offer real money betting online.
21 land-based casinos operate in Switzerland today and presumably those will be the only local entities eligible for licensing. It has also been reported that international betting sites (read: foreign) may be allowed to enter online gaming in Switzerland if they partner with a local brick-and-mortar casino, but it remains to be seen if that does turn out to be a realistic possibility.
The Money Gaming Act also calls for Swiss internet service providers to implement IP-blocking measures to prevent locals from visiting unlicensed gaming sites. This particular measure has resulted in considerable blowback from various political groups in Switzerland who quickly began collecting signatures to hold a referendum on the law.
The groups opposed to the new gaming law successfully collected the required 50,000 signatures to force a referendum . A simple majority vote against the law will delay its implementation and force lawmakers to either amend the law or scrap it entirely.
Is it legal to bet online in Switzerland?
To the credit of Swiss officials, they always seemed to understand that the situation previously made no sense. If people are going to bet online anyways, they might as well legalize, regulate and tax it. News sources have been reporting on legalization rumors since 2013 but it wasn’t until 2015 that a bill was formally introduced.
Swiss newspaper 20min.ch reported on the development in an article published online in October of 2015. The proposal would authorize Switzerland’s 21 land-based operators to launch their online gambling sites with the full blessing of the government. The proposal would also change the tax code so that all gambling/betting winnings would be issued tax-free to players.
Previously, lottery and sports betting wins were taxed while winnings derived from casino games are exempt. This new proposal would level the playing field and make pretty much everything tax-free from the individual gambler’s point of view. This proposal eventually became the Money Gaming Act and while it exempts sports and lottery winnings under CHF 1 million, it does impose taxes on winnings greater than that amount.
The one problem with the proposal is the timeline it sets. If the bill becomes law without issue, local operators would be unable to set up Swiss betting sites until as late as 2019. The Swiss Federation of Casinos has already raised objections to the extended timeline, calling it “far too late.”
20min.ch also noted that new tax exemptions are expected to result in a shortfall of 120 million Swiss francs per year, but that the government expects increased activity in the online sector would result in greater revenues to the casinos and an increase in taxes collected from operators.
The proposal also loosens Switzerland’s restrictions on private poker games. Previously, the law prohibited all real money poker games organized outside of licensed casinos. The new law allows private home poker games as long as the stakes are “low” and organizers apply to local canton authorities for approval.
What if I want to gamble online today?
Online gambling is currently prohibited at sites that are not licensed, but the Money Gaming Act has not yet taken effect and therefore there are no sites that are 100% legal for Swiss gamblers at this time. However, even the old gaming laws were not enforced to target individual players and there is little stopping you from signing up and playing today.
Even today, the biggest Swiss betting sites support three of Switzerland’s primary languages (German, French and Italian). They also accept Swiss franc deposits and can quickly process payments back to Swiss players.
However, you should note that the current lack of regulation means you need to choose your betting site carefully. If something goes wrong, you have no legal recourse from inside Switzerland. Your best bet is to do business with established gambling sites that are licensed by demanding regulators such as the UK’s Gambling Commission.
You can start by checking out any of the betting sites recommended near the top of this page. Each of those holds a UK gaming license and has been in business for at least a decade. Furthermore, each offers a full suite of gaming options that includes everything from online poker to online sports betting to real money casino games.
Eventually, local land-based casinos should be able to acquire licenses to offer online betting in Switzerland. The first 100% legal Swiss betting sites are expected to go live in 2019 as long as everything proceeds smoothly
Real Money Deposits in Swiss Francs
Swiss gaming laws do not target the banking sector and that results in it being very easy to fund your online betting account. Large Switzerland betting sites accept all the most common payment methods, including credit cards, debit cards, Neteller, Skrill, instant bank transfer, bank wire and old fashioned paper cheques in the mail.
Withdrawals are typically paid back through the same method used to deposit. So if you make a CHF deposit with Neteller, for example, your betting site will issue any winnings back to your Neteller account. Most sites do support the Swiss franc currency, but your money will be converted to USD, EUR or GBP when you actually place a bet or join a poker table.
Credit and debit cards are the two fastest options for anyone looking to get online and begin placing bets immediately. However, you may find an e-wallet suh as Neteller or Skirll more useful if you like to bounce around from one site to the next. You can set up your e-wallet account in Euros and then avoid the majority of foreign exchange fees as you move from one online casino to the next.
Online Sports Betting in Switzerland
Sports betting is classified as gambling under old Swiss law and is prohibited as a result until the first licenses are issued. But as you may have gathered by now, the law has little effect in reality. If you want to bet on sports, you can visit any of the dozens of online bookmakers that serve the Swiss market.
Large, international bookmakers cover every major sport and most of them also cover domestic leagues inside Switzerland. Just a few of the available markets include football, ice hockey, skating, tennis, skiing, other alpine sports, basketball, volleyball, handball and so on. The selection is virtually limitless with new events added every day.
Legitimate online bookmakers require all customers to deposit first and have enough cash in their accounts to cover all bets. In other words, betting on credit is not an option. If you want to bet on sports, you’ll need to sign up for an account and then make a deposit. Then, once you have the cash loaded into your betting account, you can place wagers however you please.