Poker in Switzerland is now officially a game of luck, not a game of skill. The proper categorization of poker is an argument that has been waging around the world for many years, and will continue to be argued into the future – it seems that nobody can come to an agreement. While it is not yet clear how the new ruling will effect online poker sites in Switzerland, some guesses can be made.
The ruling comes in a time when unlicensed and unregulated poker games abound in Switzerland. The country has several licensed casinos that are officially allowed to offer poker tournaments, but they face competition from unlicensed events taking place in bars, clubs, and restaurants. The Swiss casino industry got fed up with trying to compete with underground poker rooms, so they took the issue to the Swiss Supreme Court asking for an official decision.
The new ruling is seen primarily as a measure to protect Swiss poker rooms, because it officially restricts poker to licensed casinos since they are the only entities allowed to offer games of chance. Had the Swiss Supreme Court ruled in the other direction, calling poker a game of skill, it would have been allowed everywhere, without restriction. Interestingly, the ruling says that home games are still permitted.
Swiss casinos pay a full 50% of their profits in taxes, so by restricting poker to casinos, the government is able to make sure they get a big slice of the revenue generated by games and tournaments. This financial motivation seems to be the main reason for the ruling.
As for online poker, little will change. Internet gambling is officially not allowed, but the rules are loosely enforced, and Swiss players will continue to have little trouble finding foreign-based internet poker sites that allow them to play online poker in Switzerland.