Plans for an amended gambling law – including improved regulations to combat addiction as well as a ban on foreign online casinos – have won ground ahead of next month’s vote, according to a nationwide opinion poll.
Three weeks before the issue will come to a vote, the leading GfS Bern polling and research institute found 58% of respondents saying they will approve the reform.
This is an increase of 6% compared with a previous survey commissioned by swissinfo.ch’s parent company, the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation, and published last month.
“The trend is clearly in favour of parliament and the government,” says GfS Bern co-director Lukas Golder. “Barring a major upset in the final phase of the debate, we expect the reform to win a majority.”
The latest data give supporters of the law a 21-percentage point lead for the vote on June 10.
Golder also says that despite a high-profile social media campaign and a generally critical stance in the traditional media, the issue has failed to take off among the general public.
Concern over an expected drop in revenue from the proceeds of lotteries and casinos – which benefit the old age pension scheme and civil society – is the main reason for citizens to approve the reform.
A study commissioned by the justice ministry found that banning foreign casinos would deprive the Swiss state of at least CHF250 million ($250 million) annually. Overall, turnover from gambling is estimated at about CHF1 billion per year.
Under the new law, approved by parliament last year, only licensed casinos located in Switzerland can offer online games, but the sites of casinos located abroad would be blocked. But youth wings of rightwing and centre-right parties mounted a challenge and collected the necessary 50,000 signatures for a nationwide vote.
Support for the law has been growing over the past few weeks, notably in major German-speaking regions and among citizens in rural areas, say pollsters.
The issue of blocking access to internet gambling sites and government intervention in the online sector has raised limited interest.
“Mobilisation of voters is key. But it is low,” says GfS Bern political scientist and project leader Martina Mousson.
The 18-to-29-year-old citizens appear to be the only age group coming out against the reform – primarily because of concerns over restrictions of the use of the internet.
The main political parties are divided, with most youth wings of the groups campaigning against the law. But there are clear indications that the party grassroots prefer the reform, even despite recommendations by party leaders in some cases.
The government argues its policy is similar to legislation in 17 other European countries, but opponents have strongly criticised it as illiberal and paving the way for state censorship of the internet.
Sovereign money initiative
A sweeping reform of the monetary system by limiting the scope of commercial banks – which also comes to a vote on June 10 – stands virtually no chance of winning a majority at the polls.
“The first GfS Bern poll found no indication for the ‘Sovereign Money Initiative’ to win a majority. This trend has been confirmed,” says Mousson.
The proposal initiative is only popular among citizens close to leftwing parties and among people in the French-speaking part of the country. But neither respondents from the young generation nor people with low income are willing to accept it.
Mousson says the arguments put forward by the initiative committee – prevention of economic bubbles, the fear of financial crises and strengthening the role of the central bank – are generally well accepted.
“But fears of running a high risk by curtailing the business of commercial banks prevail,” she says.
Worldwide, Switzerland is the first country to hold a vote on a proposal by a group of economists, entrepreneurs and financial experts to introduce the sovereign money system.
The initiative was launched in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis but campaigners have faced a broad alliance of political parties, organisations, parliament and the government.
The campaigners collected more than 100,000 signatures for a nationwide vote but it has remained difficult to explain the complex issue, according to pollsters.
They don’t expect the initiative to win more than a third of the vote at best amid a comparatively low voter turnout of about 40%.
Pollsters interviewed 1,411 Swiss citizens from all language regions across the country for the final of two nationwide surveys.
Swiss expatriates are not included in the poll for data protection reasons.
The telephone interviews, both with fixed line and mobile phone users, took place from May 15-23.
The margin of error is 2.7%.
The survey was commissioned by the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation (SBC), swissinfo.ch’s parent company, and carried out by the leading GfS Bern research and polling institute.end of infobox