PokerStars, the flagship brand of online gambling giant The Stars Group, is looking for ways to continue to operate in the Swiss gambling market after its reorganization.
Switzerland’s new Money Gaming Act took effect on January 1, 2019, paving the way for the nation’s 21 land-based casinos to operate online casino games and betting for the very first time ever. Under the provisions of the new law, starting today, July 1, the local gambling regulator – Eidgenössische Spielbankenkommission (ESBK), can order Swiss Internet service providers to block unlicensed online gambling operations.
The Swiss Money Gaming Act only allows the local land-based casinos to operate online gambling. Foreign gambling operators can provide their products in the newly reorganized gaming space through partnerships with the 21 brick-and-mortar establishments. If they have not formed such partnerships, they risk having their domains blacklisted and blocked.
PokerStars has not forged a partnership with any of Switzerland’s land-based casinos, but the operator has showed indications that it is still interested in the local market.
A spokesperson for the major online poker brand has told Poker Industry PRO that they “are currently executing plans to ensure PokerStars will continue to be the market leader in the Swiss poker market.”
This probably means that the operator is actively looking for a local partner, the only legal option that would enable it remain operational in Switzerland.
Start of Legal Gambling
Today marks the official start of legal online gambling in Switzerland under the nation’s new gambling act. Four of the local land-based casinos have been authorized by the Swiss Federal Council to launch online gambling operations on July 1, with those being Grand Casino Baden, Casino Davos, Grand Casino Luzern, and Casino Pfäffikon.
Of those four, Grand Casino Baden has an important competitive edge with its JackPots.ch brand, which has been operating as a free-to-pay casino for a while now and has amassed a customer base of more than 15,000 registered players.
A number of major gambling providers have announced that they have partnered with local casinos for the provision of their products in the newly regulated space. Gambling tech giant Playtech has announced that it has agreed to power the online casino of Casino Pfäffikon.
Live Casino provider Evolution Gaming announced last month that it was gearing up preparations for the launch of its products with Grand Casino Baden. Most recently, iGaming supplier iSoftBet said that it has too secured the necessary authorization to enter the Swiss gambling market and provide its proprietary online slots as well as its Gaming Aggregation Platform, which features more than 1,000 titles by a number of B2B content providers.
To comply with the new regime, PokerStars discontinued its online casino and betting operations in the Swiss market early this year. Its online poker product remained operational in the local gaming space, but as of today the company will no longer be able to provide online poker services to Swiss players, if it wants to avoid regulatory action.
PokerStars has carefully avoided unregulated markets over the past several years, in order to keep a clean record, which it needs to prove US authorities that it has learnt its lessons from its post-UIGEA legal troubles and is ready to jump on the US gambling bandwagon as sports betting is getting legalized in a number of states.
The online poker giant was banished from the US after it was found to have kept accepting US players after the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act took effect in 2006.
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