In 2008, the Italian government came to the decision to sanction and license online poker, and the idea is catching on in other European countries. Switzerland and Denmark are the two most recent nations to explore their online gaming options and the positive effects on national revenue. Switzerland has been looking into the issue for some time, and Swiss Gaming Board President Benno Schneider has been encouraging the Swiss Federal Council to consider the benefits of online gaming. In a newspaper interview in December, Schneider offered to conduct a test of a licensed program to generate revenue for the government and investigate a regulated system. A formal proposal was subsequently delivered to the Council.
By April of 2009, the Swiss government was reportedly considering a draft of online gaming regulation legislation. With lotteries and sports betting already legal in Switzerland, the infrastructure is in place to support a system should it become legal. The proposal in the hands of government officials would require online gaming companies to request a license under strict guidelines.
Though many legislators would like to keep online gaming illegal, the revenue is enticing, with estimates coming in at nearly $22 million possible on an annual basis. Experts are expressing support for the proposal, and debate will continue until a formal decision is made by the Swiss government.
Denmark has gone a step further. After 60 years of a state-run gaming monopoly, the Danish government announced on April 21 that it will change its system to a regulated one that allows an open market for gaming companies to apply for licenses that will allow access to Danish citizens. Under pressure from the European Commission and corresponding lawsuit to end the monopoly, the government of Denmark decided to allow foreign companies to begin the licensing application process.
The current owner of the monopoly, Danske Spil, seems pleased with the decision, as its own tax rate will be lowered. The company’s director, H.C. Madsen, commented, “It will be nice to get some clarity on the issue after so many years of uncertainty. We’ll also be able to offer casino gambling and poker now, which we couldn’t do before.”
As with the aforementioned Italian government’s move, the Danish government looks to increase the revenue they receive from online gaming through licensing fees and the offering of more online games, as well as satisfy the European Commission and escape the pending lawsuit, which still stands against other countries like Finland, Hungary, Sweden, France, Greece, and Germany.
Whether other countries look to follow in the footsteps of Denmark will likely depend on the aggression of the European Commission and the success of the Danes’ efforts. With Italy and Denmark setting precedents for profitable, open markets in their countries, others like Switzerland may be more apt to conduct studies and consider the option.