There are two levels of gambling laws in Switzerland — federal and cantonal (state). Casino licenses are given through the Swiss Federal Casino Commission (ESBK). Lotteries and sports betting are managed through Comlot, the Swiss Lottery and Betting Board.
In 2018, the Money Gaming Act was passed to block the IP addresses of foreign gambling sites. This was done to force operators to pay their fair share of taxes.
The law went into effect in January 2019 with a transitional phase allowing some sites and apps to remain accessible through June. As of the end of June, all unlicensed gambling options are blocked.
Federal Gambling Law in Switzerland
The federal gambling law is the Federal Act on Gambling (Gambling Act), or BGS. There have been three major updates to that law.
1923: Lotteries are allowed on the state (canton) level. Proceeds from the lottery must be used for the public’s benefit. In 1937, totalizator betting on horse races was offered by the lottery as well.
1998: Casinos are allowed. Casinos can be private, for-profit companies. This law allows slots, card games, and other traditional casino activities.
2018: Online gaming is legal! Access to unlicensed sites and apps will be blocked.
It’s important to note that Switzerland doesn’t have any monopolies. There are two lotteries and a large number of individual casinos and casino chains. At the time of this writing, both of the lotteries and none of the casinos have an online gambling presence.
We’re excited to see what the casinos come up with. We’re hoping for some creative partnerships with leading online gaming companies. It could be a win-win-win situation. But we’ll get into that in the slots section below.
Swiss Gambling Laws by Game Type
Poker players get both a trick and a treat in the new law. The treat is that small, in-person poker tournaments are now allowed outside of casinos. These tourneys will have strict limits on buy-ins, the number of players, and more. It’ll be up to each canton to decide whether to allow these tournaments and if so, what rules to set.
The trick is that online poker is now subject to the same laws as other gambling. Access to foreign sites will be blocked by the middle of the year. So practicing online will get harder, but playing in person will be easier.
The new law differentiates between automated sports betting and local sports betting. It specifically calls out online betting as part of its scope. Similar to poker, punters get a mixed bag. You can now bet on the local match at the stadium or field.
But your access to online bookmakers will be extremely limited. We’re hoping that Swiss casinos will create smart partnerships with some of the better names in the business. That way, you retain access to a variety of lines and odds, the bookmakers keep the market competitive, and the casinos can bring their sports betting options to the market in time. Everybody wins!
Check out our picks for the best Swiss sports betting sites.
Switzerland has two lottery organizations, Swisslos and Loterie Romande. Each lottery serves a different section of the country. Swisslos covers the German and Italian-speaking cantons, while Loterie Romande caters to the French-speaking cantons.
Each lottery has a slightly different offering to better serve their customers. Loterie Romande works closely with France’s PMU to push horse racing bets, where Swisslos focuses on general sports bets with their Sporttip program, for example. Both lotteries offer a variety of retail options as well as a broad online site.
More than 4,000 slot machines grace the halls of 21 casinos across the country. They generate more than 80% of the amount bet at all Swiss casinos! However, there’s a lot of competition from German and Austrian casinos as well.
Swiss gambling law offers two types of casino licenses. Class A casinos have a full spectrum of games available to them and are usually in big cities. If you see a Grand Casino in Switzerland, you’re in a Class A casino. Class B casinos are usually smaller, with fewer table games and lower jackpots.
As mentioned, the online gambling law in Switzerland just changed last year to allow legal online gambling. The lotteries already have their sites up and running. The casinos will have their offerings available by the middle of the year.
In the meantime, international sites are still accessible from Switzerland. We believe that many Swiss casinos will partner with existing online operators to get to market quickly. So the question is: which ones? Our list of top Swiss online casinos is a good place to get some ideas.
With the new law, you can gamble anywhere in Switzerland! There are land-based casinos across the country. You can get lotto tickets and participate in sports betting at newsstands and tobacconists on nearly every corner.
Even better, with the new Swiss online gambling law, it’s 100% legal to gamble online! While the law will eventually block access to sites that are not licensed in Switzerland, right now, you can still legally access them. So get in while the getting’s good!
There’s an overview of Swiss gambling laws. Casinos are legal, sports betting and lottery are legal, and online gaming is now legal! There’s still time to enjoy all the international online casino providers, so register and play while you can.