Swiss Gaming Body Selects New President

Switzerland’s federal body tasked with regulating gambling in the nation, the Eidgenössische Spielbankenkommission (ESBK), has appointed Fabio Abate as its new president. The move arrives on the heels of current president Hermann Bürgi announcing his intention to step down from the role at the end of December.

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After serving as president since February 2013, the Swiss regulatory body ESBK has appointed independent lawyer Fabio Abate to replace outgoing president Hermann Bürgi. ©PublicDomainPictures/Pixabay

Federal Council Selects Independent Lawyer for Role

The Eidgenössische Spielbankenkommission’s current outgoing president Hermann Bürgi has worked for the federal body since as far back as April 2012. He has occupied the leading role in the commission since February 2013. Also a member of the government of the Swiss canton of Thurgau, Bürgi’s tenure at the ESBK saw him greatly supporting the implementation of regulations in order to open up Switzerland’s previously limited igaming market.

Tasked with replacing Hermann Bürgi in this leading position is Fabio Abate, an independent lawyer practicing in the city of Locarno in the Italian-speaking Swiss canton of Ticino, where he also previously held the position of national councilor. Abate is set to begin his term as president on the 1st of January, 2021, having only joined the ESBK as recently as this year.

Gambling Regulator Has Greatly Expanded Blacklist in 2020

It has been a remarkably busy 2020 for the ESBK in Switzerland. The regulatory body has been consistently adding dozens upon dozens of websites and operators to its illegal gambling blacklist. In cooperation with Inter-Cantonal Lotteries and Betting Commission, which publishes its own blacklist and is often referred to as Comlot, the regularly updated list saw hundreds of new websites added over the course of January, May, August and October of this year.

In January, 35 websites were added to the blacklist of unlicensed operators, with highlights including Winorama.com, Magik.casino, Scracthmania.com, Bitstarz.com, Eclipsecasino,com and Goldeneuro.com. Earlier editions of the list saw major operators become blacklisted in the small landlocked nation, notably bet365, bet-at-home, Intertops, Interwetten and Pinnacle. 

February saw another 61 domains added to the list, including bet365’s partner site 365sb.com, which was the fourth bet365 site to be blocked after bet365.com, bet365.it and bet365.dk. Also included were two sites run by Argo Casino, as well as 1betasia.com, 3Winorama.com, 5Dimes.mobi, Avalon78.com, Bahingo28.com, Baocasino.com, Betamo.com, Kingbilly.com, Bet-at-home789.com and playamo31.com.

A further 33 websites were added to the blacklist in August, including two sites each from Boaboa, Cadolla and Casinia, in addition to highlights Amunra.com, Bitcasino.io and Bitcoincasino.io. Also singled out by the ESBK were two websites operated by Machance, as well Masonslots.com, Megapari.com, Oshi.io, Paradisecasino.com and several more.

The most recent update to the ESBK’s blacklist came in October, which saw the perhaps surprising inclusion of Coingaming Group’s sports betting brand Sportsbet.io, as well as Bc.game, Allrightcasino.com and Campobet.com, along with dozens of others. The total amount of blocked domains in Switzerland now stands at 142.

What is notable about the Estonia-headquartered Coingaming Group’s bitcasino.io site becoming blacklisted is that it was named as Arsenal FC’s official betting partner in September, while also acting as shirt sponsor of fellow Premier League club Southampton FC for the 2020-21 season. One of Arsenal’s star players is Granit Xhaka — who also serves as the captain of the Swiss national football team. 

The notorious blacklist was first released in September 2019 in an effort to control unlicensed gambling in the nation. Article 86 of Switzerland’s Geldspielgesetz allows the ESBK to demand internet service providers block access to platforms that are accessible in Switzerland but that are not licensed, which is typically done by using a domain name server lock.

Expansion of Blacklist Follows Implementation of Regulations

The widespread blacklisting of foreign gambling operators in Switzerland comes as a result of strict igaming regulations implemented in January 2019. These regulations saw all foreign operators outlawed in favor of offerings run exclusively by the country’s land-based casinos. These new measures were adopted as a result of a national referendum conducted in June 2019, with 73% of the Swiss population backing the new legislation. Major operators such as bet365, Pinnacle, Betclic Everest and Sportsbet.io have had their domains blocked by Swiss internet service providers as a result.

Following this legislation, operators that have been granted licenses will be able to offer new services such as poker and roulette. However, they must simultaneously adhere to strict measures on setting maximum bets for verticals such as poker tournaments, small lotteries and raffles. For example, the maximum single-entry fee for poker is limited to CHF200 (£154/€176/$198) for small tournaments, while the limit of total entry fees is capped at CHF20,000. As for raffles and lotteries, maximum limits will depend on the overall size of the lottery. The goal of such strict regulations comes as a part of Switzerland’s attempts to clamp down on gambling addiction in the country.

At the current moment, there are only seven licensed gambling domains operating in Switzerland. The most recent domain to join the exclusive Swiss club of licensed operators was Pasino.ch — the latest online offering launched by the land-based casino Casino du Lac. Prior to this, September saw the launch of Grand Casino Kursaal Bern’s online casino website 7melons.ch, as a result of a single license granted to the casino in November 2019.

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