The Ministry of Finance of Austria is currently in the process of reviewing the country's Gambling Act aiming to introduce new amendments that could seriously affect the local online gambling market. Namely, the revised Act would seek to completely ban all foreign gambling operators and even request refunds for the losses players accrued playing with these operators over the past three decades.
Restrictive Ban Not a Solution
The new Gambling Act proposes that the country's ISPs should ban IP addresses of all gambling operators offering their services to players from Austria. Much like in Germany, all of these sites operate in a grey zone and aren't sanctioned by the state. Therefore, all those who refuse to stop marketing their services in the country should be blocked.
However, not everyone agrees with this solution. The ban would effectively create a monopoly, because only one site, Casino Austria, partially owned by the state, is actually licensed in Austria. By blocking other reputable operators who can't apply for a license, many believe an opposite effect would be created, where players would be pushed towards shady, unregulated sites.
Instead of this, large gambling companies licensed in Malta and Gibraltar propose a different approach similar to the one found in the United Kingdom and Denmark. Interested online casinos and gambling sites would be able to apply for local licenses and would need to adhere to local laws, but they wouldn't be forced out of the market.
30 Years Worth of Refunds
Despite the fact the IP ban would be against the spirit of freedom to provide services in the EU, the Ministry of Finance seems firm in its decision. They came up with an idea they hope would deter foreign operators and prevent them from trying to bypass or battle the ban.
Namely, the Ministry proposes that all contracts between Austrian players and unlicensed operators over the last 30 years are proclaimed null and void. This would mean that the operators would be forced to return all the players' losses from the past three decades.
Although the legality and enforceability of this law are highly questionable, the Ministry hopes the threat alone will be enough to keep the operators at bay.
Certain companies have announced they will be fighting for their rights using all legal means at their disposal. One of these is bet-at-home, a company that employs more than 300 people at their Linz office and voluntarily pays 40% tax to the state despite not having a local gambling license. Bet-at-home and others have no problems with paying their dues but they refuse to sit idle as the country tries to enact a market monopoly, which is something the European Union won't easily accept, either.