First Swiss Online Casinos Get Federal OK

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switzerland gambling law amendmentGrand Casino Baden, Casino Davos, Grand Casino Luzern, and Casino Pfäffikon receive Federal Council approval to launch online casinos

The Swiss Federal Council gave last week much-needed approval to the first four online casino license applications submitted with the nation’s Gaming Board (Eidgenössische Spielbankenkommission, ESBK), paving the way for the launch of digital gambling under Switzerland’s new gambling law – Geldspielgesetz.

ESBK approved the four applications in April. The Federal Council giving the nod to the four license applicants means that those are well on track for a July 1 launch of their online gaming operations.

Swiss legislators approved the country’s new Gambling Act last year. The legislation also gained support from voters during a referendum that took place last summer. The Gambling Act took effect on January 1, 2019. Under its provisions, only Switzerland’s land-based casinos can apply for and be authorized to run online gambling operations.

As for international companies, they can be legally present in the local market if they form partnerships with the nation’s land-based casino operators. The local brick-and-mortar venues are now looking to go live with digital gaming on July 1, the exact same date on which another important provision of the new law is slated to be enforced.

Said provision, which many consider way too controversial and restrictive, obligates local Internet service providers to block all unlicensed online gambling domains that target Swiss gamblers.

Switzerland’s First Four Online Casinos

onlinegambling46Grand Casino Baden and Casino Davos, both operated by Stadtcasino Baden-Gruppe, Grand Casino Luzern, operated by Kursaal-Casino AG Luzern, and Swiss Casinos’ Casino Pfäffikon were the four gambling venues to submit the first license applications for the operation of online gambling.

As mentioned earlier, the four properties were given the green light by the local gambling regulator back in March. With the Federal Council’s approval, they are now looking to launch their digital operations on July 1. However, they all need to clear one final hurdle in order to be able to venture into the online gambling field.

They need regulatory approval for the gaming software their online casinos will be powered by. Regulators are expected to rule on that matter by the end of the month.

Grand Casino Baden will go live with online gambling via its brand. The website has been out there for a while as a free-to-play casino and has amassed more than 15,000 registered customers. Its sister venue has a deal with Belgium’s Ardent Group and will operate an online casino under the company’s casino777 brand.

Speaking at last week’s Gaming in Holland Conference, Marcel Tobler, Chief Financial Officer at Grand Casino Baden, said that they are very excited about the upcoming launch. The official also pointed out that while some of Switzerland’s casinos said “we will wait and see how everything works out”, he believes “that’s too late” and that “if you want to be there, be there … [it’s] a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

Switzerland has 21 land-based casinos that are all eligible to apply for an online gaming license. It is yet to be seen when and whether these would go live with digital casino operations.

Grand Casino Luzern is gearing up preparations to launch its brand, which will offer a number of slot machines and table games, including live roulette that will be livestreamed from the land-based casino.

Commenting on the upcoming launch, Wolfgang Bliem, CEO of Grand Casino Luzern Group, said that they “see the online casino market as an additional and important sales channel for the casino, the core business of our company.”

Last but not least, Casino Pfäffikon has inked a deal with gambling tech giant Playtech to power its online casino.

The Stars Group said earlier this year that it was looking for a Swiss partner to secure its presence in the newly reorganized market. The company has not announced any such partnership yet. Early this year, it discontinued its gaming and betting operations in Switzerland to avoid regulatory action.

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