Special Report: Online Gambling Regulation Across Europe
Online gambling regulation is constantly changing. The liberalization of iGaming continues unabated across Europe. The following regulatory changes have been or are in the process of being implemented.
This special report features the latest updates to online gambling legislation across Europe. Our analysts have researched the latest proposals and laws in each of the countries listed below. Online gambling includes bingo, poker, casino, lottery, sports betting, and horse racing. This guide makes clear where each country stands with each category.
Austria allows bingo, lottery games, casino, poker, horse race betting, and sports betting. Within Austria, it's possible to apply for private operator licenses or regional licenses for horse race betting and sports betting. For lottery games, bingo, casino, and poker, all regulatory authority rests with the monopoly – Casinos Austria through 2027.
The Current Status of Online Gambling in Austria
European Union law is generally incompatible with the Austrian casino monopoly, as attested to by the CJEU. However, various national courts in Austria have ruled differently on this topic. It remains unclear how EU law and the Austria Casino Monopoly can be compatible with one another. In June 2021, an issue was brought to the attention of the Austrian Supreme Court. The court maintained a player’s claim against a foreign-licensed operator in the EU was valid. The player requested a full refund of losses, based on the proviso that the contract between the operator and Austria was invalid. In February 2021, the Austrian finance minister announced a sweeping set of proposals to modify online gambling legislation in the country. Austrian gaming legislators made several proposals. One was to establish an independent regulator, another was to introduce website blocking software. Another proposal was to enhance player protection. Even though the draft law was believed to pass in 2021, it has not gone through yet.
Belgium permits lottery games, bingo, poker, casino, horse race betting, and sports betting. In Belgium, any online gambling provider can offer any type of product, except for lottery games. These fall under the jurisdiction of the state monopoly provider. All online gambling sites must partner with a fully licensed and regulated land-based operator. Once approved, this partnership will allow the online casino to operate in tandem with the local bricks and mortar licensed operator.
The Current Status of Online Gambling in Belgium
Given Belgium's membership of the European Union, and subject to the EU Treaty, there are opponents of current online gambling legislation in the country. The validity of these arguments is not without merit. Currently, Belgium enforces the rules and regulations according to the country's laws. For example, there was a €500 per week limit in effect for all registered online casino players. A draft royal decree to decrease this limit was introduced in July 2021. The Royal decree suggested a limit of €200, once the decree is passed into law. Other changes submitted to the Austrian parliament include a draft law to ban the sponsorship of online gambling and advertising of online gambling activity.
Bulgaria offers multiple regulated gambling products including lottery games (no instant lottery and no raffles), poker, bingo, casino, sports betting, and horse race betting. In Bulgaria, private operators can offer legal-age players a wide range of online gambling options, except for lottery-style games. Those fall under the jurisdiction of the Bulgarian monopoly.
The Current Status of Online Gambling in Bulgaria
In Bulgaria, any European Union (EU)/European Economic Area (EEA) operator, or a Swiss Confederation operator is entitled to apply for a Bulgarian online gambling license. The national regulator has issued some 30+ licenses so far, including multiple licenses to international operators. All lotteries in Bulgaria fall under the jurisdiction of a national monopoly. Currently, any existing lottery provider operating in Bulgaria will have to comply with new requirements. Once these amendments are passed into law, existing operators will have their licenses revoked.
Croatia allows a variety of gambling products, including lottery games, bingo games, poker games, casino games, sports betting, and horse race betting. As with Bulgaria, Croatia allows private operators to provide a variety of gambling products except for lotteries. These fall under the jurisdiction of the Croatian monopoly. Private operators must receive a bricks-and-mortar casino license or betting license if they wish to offer these games.
The Current Status of Online Gambling in Croatia
The Croatian Ministry has attempted to modify its gambling legislation. However, such efforts have been heavily criticized vis-a-vis compatibility with EU regulations. One such regulation states that only operators with land-based licenses can provide online gambling services. As of now, changes to online gambling legislation appear to be at an impasse in Croatia.
Cyprus offers a limited variety of regulated gambling products. These include horse race betting, sports betting, and lottery games. All online gambling activity in Cyprus falls under the jurisdiction of OPAP. This government authority has full control over horse race betting, sports betting, and lottery games.
The Current Status of Online Gambling in Cyprus
Online betting was regulated in Cyprus in July 2012. Officially, a licensing regimen was not available until 2016. Internet Service Providers (ISPs) must block all offshore-based operators from providing gambling services to legal-age residents in Cyprus. In March 2019, Cyprus implemented a betting law, replacing the betting law of 2012. The new law is similar to the older one, with several amendments vis-a-vis EU compatibility. For example, the March 2019 law requires that all operators must have a local branch to obtain a betting license in Cyprus. Fast forward to July 2021. Local operators are now required by law to comply with the rules and regulations restricting the advertising of gambling activity.
- Czech Republic
Legal online gambling in the Czech Republic includes lottery games, bingo, poker, online casino, horse race betting, and sports betting. A large variety of online operators can apply for a Czech Republic gambling license, including European Union (EU) and European Economic Area (EEA) operators.
The Current Status of Online Gambling in the Czech Republic
A new set of gambling regulations was ratified on January 1, 2017. This new framework specifically allows EU and EEA-based operators to enter the Czech Republic gambling market. Further, all licensed operators must comply with ISP-blocking protocols. Gambling taxes of 30% are now in effect on Gross Gambling Revenue (GGR) for specific types of online gambling, effective January 2020.
Legal online gambling activity in Denmark allows for lottery games, bingo games, poker, online casino, horse race betting, sports betting, and fantasy sports too. Private operators can apply for online gambling licenses in Denmark across multiple verticals except for lotteries. These are controlled by the Danish Gaming Authority (DGA).
The Current Status of Online Gambling in Denmark
Legal online gambling took effect in Denmark on January 1, 2012. The DGA has implemented ISP blocking measures against foreign operators attempting to provide gambling services to Danish residents. This includes marketing efforts targeting Danes. Only fully licensed operators in Denmark are legally permitted to provide gambling services to legal-age players.
Starting on January 1, 2020, gambling operators must ensure that deposit limits have been set by all registered players for online casino gambling. The Danish Gaming Authority (DGA) also introduced updated marketing rules effective April 1, 2020. By August 2021, a new authority was created – the Gambling Advertising Board – to enforce the rules set by the DGA.
Regulated online gambling activity in Estonia is permitted with lottery games, bingo, poker, casino, horse racing, and sports betting. The state authority allows private operators to provide a wide range of gambling products, except for lottery games. These fall under the jurisdiction of the state monopoly.
The Current Status of Online Gambling in Estonia
Any operator providing online gambling services in Estonia must have an active license for the specific type of gambling they are offering. The authorities maintain a blacklist of illegal operators. Further, payment processing blocks are in place for unlicensed operators and ISP blocking is in place too.
Presently, Finland permits legal online gambling with lottery games, bingo, poker, casino, horse racing, and sports betting. The monopoly authority Veikkaus Oy is charged with regulating all gambling products. Profits from gambling are used to support public-interest causes, including science, sports, physical education, youth work, social wellbeing et al. As of 2021, players are now required to identify themselves when playing slot machines at public locations.
The Current Status of Online Gambling in Finland
Finnish laws have changed over the years to accommodate greater liberalization of online gambling in the country. Various initiatives are currently in force such as the prevention of offshore operators providing services to Finnish residents. Other measures include restrictive marketing for offshore gambling providers. In September 2021 the government of Finland proposed a change to the nation’s gambling legislation. Among others, the proposals seek to implement payment blocking and financial penalties for marketing violations.
France allows legal-age gambling on a variety of products including lottery games, poker, bingo, horse race betting, and sports betting activity. Any private operator is allowed to apply for regulatory approval for sports betting, poker, and horse race betting. As for lottery games and bingo games, the state monopoly has full control.
The Current Status of Online Gambling in France
France legalized online gambling activity in 2010. Shortly thereafter, the EC dropped its infringement lawsuit. A new national authority known as L’Autorite Nationale des Jeux took over from ARJEL in 2020. The French authorities have cautioned operators against using bonuses and promotional offers to lure in new players for poker games. A draft law proposing a ban on gambling advertising was issued in July 2021. The French parliament received this draft proposal and is currently deliberating.
Germany has a complicated regulatory framework vis-a-vis online gambling activity. Before July 1, 2019, some 15 federal states across Germany unofficially allowed slots games. The one territory in Germany which endorsed bingo, poker, casino, sports betting, and horserace betting was Schleswig-Holstein. In recent years, a state treaty on gambling has been established in Germany. This presents operators with a legal framework for sports betting, poker, and online slots games.
According to German gambling legislation, operators can apply for horse race betting approval at the regional level. As of January 1, 2020, private operators can apply for sports betting licenses. Fast forward to July 1, 2021, private operators can now apply for online poker and online slots gaming licenses. Land-based casinos have control over table games, including live dealer games, roulette games, and blackjack. Presently, no table games are available through online casinos.
In Schleswig-Holstein, operators are no longer allowed to acquire licensing and regulation under the existing framework. By 2021, all licensed operators were allowed to maintain their operations, but that changed in 2022. A quasi-licensing framework was set up for sports betting activity in Schleswig-Holstein. Currently, licensing of online casino games in S-H for the territory of S-H under the old Gambling Act will be valid through December 31, 2024. On the condition that the private operator has obtained a lawful gambling license under the GluStV by July 1, 2022.
The Current Status of Online Gambling in Germany
The EC has criticized Germany's gambling framework. On January 1, 2020, Germany's Parliament approved the Third Amendment Treaty. This treaty eliminated limitations on the issuance of sports betting licenses. It also set up an official process for sports betting licenses. While online casino gaming is still banned in Germany, various online gambling games are permitted. The new interstate treaty on gambling was approved by the German Prime Minister, allowing private operators to offer online slots and online poker. Strict limits are in place, including betting limits, and marketing for operators.
- The United Kingdom
Presently, the UK permits a wide range of gambling activities, including lottery games, poker, bingo, online casino, sports betting, and horse race betting activity. Camelot – the state monopoly – is charged with all lottery games, but private operators can apply for licenses for sports betting, casino, and other gambling products.
Any online gambling operator that offers its services to legal-age UK residents must comply with UKGC (United Kingdom Gambling Commission) requirements. Additionally, all gambling software must be provided through the UKGC-licensed operator. Proposals for changes to current UKGC gambling legislation will be published in a White Paper and submitted to Parliament for further consideration. The UK remains one of the world's most developed online gambling markets, with a sophisticated gambling framework.
Like the UK, Greece allows a wide range of gambling products including lottery games, poker games, bingo games, casino games, sports betting, and horse race betting. According to Greek law, 2 unique types of licenses are expressly available to private operators. These include a Type 1 license for online betting activity and a Type 2 license for online casino games and online poker games. Operators that were previously state-owned can now offer pari-mutuel betting, lottery games, bingo games, and fixed odds betting on horse racing events.
The Current Status of Online Gambling in Greece
As early as 2012 dozens of transitional licenses were issued to operators. A licensing framework was implemented for casino games, poker games, and online betting on October 30, 2019. In 2020, these gambling reforms were published. By July 2021, the permanent licensing process ended for the first cycle. Fifteen operators now have permanent licensing in place, 13 of which went live on August 6, 2021.
All forms of online gambling activity are allowed in Hungary including lottery games, poker, bingo, casino, sports betting, and horse race betting. Presently, only local concession operators and state monopolies can apply for a gambling license in the country.
The Current Status of Online Gambling in Hungary
On October 1, 2015, the Hungarian Parliament implemented changes to its gambling laws. As it stands, just two bricks and mortar casinos can operate virtual casino activity. Any unlicensed online gambling operator providing services to players in Hungary is met with punitive measures. However, the European Court of Justice ruled in 2017 that Hungary's gambling system was at odds with Article 56 TFEU. In February 2018, the ECJ ruled that the land-based license requirement was null and void. This bolstered the perspective of opponents of restrictive gambling laws in Hungary. As it stands, Hungary's gambling legislation is incompatible with EU laws.
Since Ireland does not have a comprehensive, updated regulatory framework vis-a-vis online gambling, the legislation is playing catch up with the technology. But horse racing and sports betting are regulated in Ireland.
The Current Status of Online Gambling in Ireland
Various reform measures have been introduced in Ireland to update the online gaming framework. These reforms were ratified on December 1, 2020. By February 2021, a draft bill was published, which was designed to restrict gambling advertising. The general scheme of the gambling regulation bill was published in October 2021. It encompasses a broad range of licensing frameworks including Business to Customer and Business to Business licensing. It also mandates the creation of the Gambling Authority of Ireland.
Italy runs a variety of legal gambling products. These include lottery games, poker, bingo, online casino, sports betting, and horse race betting. Private operators provide players with various gambling games. Lotteries fall under the jurisdiction of the state monopoly.
The Current Status of Online Gambling in Italy
The gambling framework in Italy offers an application window for operators. The last one closed on March 19, 2018. The regulatory authority AGCOM has implemented fines against various operators for marketing violations. Other security standards implemented by AGCOM include payment blocking, tax on GGR, and more in recent years.
Luxembourg is one of the strictest countries in the European Union vis-a-vis online gambling. Currently, the state-operated monopoly manages lottery games. No online casino, sports betting, horse racing, bingo, or poker games are permitted.
Malta is one of the world's premier online gambling licensing authorities. All manner of gambling products is supported, including lottery games, poker, bingo, casino, sports betting, and horse race betting. Besides lottery products, operators can apply for any form of online gambling activity.
The Current Status of Online Gambling in Malta
In 2018, the government of Malta officially endorsed the Gaming Act. It supersedes all other gambling legislation with an all-encompassing legal framework. This one size fits all piece of legislation includes directives and laws, effective August 1, 2018.
A full suite of gambling products is supported in the Netherlands. These include lottery games, poker games, bingo, online casino, sports betting, and horse race betting too. All regulated gambling products except for lottery games are available to private operators.
The Current Status of Online Gambling in the Netherlands
On April 1, 2021, the government of the Netherlands implemented the Remote Gambling Act (ROA). This lays the foundation of Dutch licensing and regulation for online gambling. On October 1, 2021, 10 licenses were issued. Operators are allowed to submit their applications for online gambling legislation according to this new framework. Offshore operators providing gambling services to legal-age Dutch players face a mandatory 33-month cooling-off period before they become eligible to apply for licensing and regulation in the Netherlands. If violations occur, such as the provision of gambling services without a license, regulator Kansspelautoriteit (KSA) can take disciplinary action against operators.
Norway limited regulated gambling to lottery games, sports betting, and horse race betting for a long time. Two providers are controlling the Norwegian gambling market, notably Norsk Rikstoto and Norsk Tipping.
The Current Status of Online Gambling in Norway
The two monopoly providers in Norway have expanded online gambling services to include casino games, online bingo, and live betting too. These measures were instituted to guard against huge outflows of betting activity to offshore-licensed operators. Various measures against unregulated operators routinely take place, including payment processing providers and local banks. The Norwegian government is determined to curb the flow of funds and traffic from Norwegian players to offshore operators. Payment blocking measures have been implemented to combat unlicensed gambling activity.
Poland regulates many gambling products, including poker games, online casino games, sports betting, and horse race betting. A physical representative in Poland is required for a company to provide online gambling services. However, only state monopoly casinos can offer poker and casino games.
The Current Status of Online Gambling in Poland
According to gambling legislation passed on January 1, 2012, betting activity is permitted in Poland. However, later legislation passed on April 1 2017 prohibited online gaming and online poker. Only state-sanctioned operators are allowed to offer online poker and online casino. Later in 2017, ISP blocking & payment blocking measures were implemented. Well over 1000+ domain names have been added to the blacklist.
As a vibrant EU country, Portugal is on board with all forms of online gambling activity. These include lottery games, bingo, poker, online casino, sports betting, and horse racing too. Any European Union or European Economic Area operator can apply for a Portuguese gambling license. However, only the state-sanctioned monopoly can offer lottery games. Fixed-odds sports betting games also fall under the state monopoly.
The Current Status of Online Gambling in Portugal
Portugal has endorsed online gambling since 2015. This European country imposes higher taxation on GGR, notably in sports betting. Since 2020, changes were made to the current taxation rates vis-a-vis online gambling activity. When Covid-19 hit, the government imposed legislation calling for a partial/total ban on online gambling activity. There are no specifics mentioned in the limitations, but the legislation is strictly reserved for online casino gaming.
A full suite of gambling products is supported in Romania, including lottery games, bingo games, online casino games, horse race betting, and sports betting too. Licensing is available to Swiss Confederation operators, EU, and EEA operators. Only the state has the authority to offer lottery games.
The Current Status of Online Gambling in Romania
The legal gambling framework implemented in Romania covers all forms of online gambling activity. Online gaming operators, software providers, affiliates, testing labs, and others in the online gaming industry are required to be regulated. The new licensing regimen became effective on February 26, 2016. Any offshore ISPs offering gambling services to Romanian players are added to the blacklist.
Slovakia supports a full range of regulated gambling products, including lottery games, poker, bingo, online casino, sports betting, and horserace betting too. By 2019, private operators were able to apply for sports betting and online casino licenses. Bingo and lottery games fall under the jurisdiction of the state operator.
The Current Status of Online Gambling in Slovakia
In Slovakia, current legislation states that only Slovakian operators can apply for iGaming operations. However, this is incompatible with EU law. The Gaming Act was changed in 2021 to address its incompatibility with European Union legislation. The talks are currently ongoing.
Slovenia’s regulated gambling products include lottery games, poker, bingo, casino, horse race betting, and sports betting. Only bricks and mortar casinos or lotteries are allowed to provide online gambling. The state-run monopoly is the only licensed authority in Slovenia.
The Current Status of Online Gambling in Slovenia
EU legislation is at odds online with Slovenian legislation vis-à-vis land-based operators and regulated online gambling. In 2015 amendments to the Slovenian Gaming Act were published. These sought to eliminate the local establishment requirement. To date, it is unclear whether any amendments have been submitted to parliament.
Spain allows all forms of gambling products. Spanish regulations permit lottery games, poker, bingo, casino, horse race betting, and sports betting too. All forms of gambling products except for lottery games are available to private operators.
The Current Status of Online Gambling in Spain
The National Gambling Commission (NGC) issues a general license and a specific license for each regulated gambling activity. A tender process was held on December 18, 2018. By late 2020, the Spanish government implemented a series of restrictive measures on welcome bonuses & promotional offers, advertising of gambling products, and sports sponsorship.
Sweden has adopted liberal online gambling legislation with a full suite of betting products available. These include lottery, poker, bingo, casino, and betting. All private operators are welcome to apply for gambling licenses.
The Current Status of Online Gambling in Sweden
Sweden has been a regulated online gambling market since January 1, 2019. All operators providing gambling-related services to players in Sweden must have a valid Swedish license. At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the government implemented strict measures including deposit limits, loss limits, and ways of monitoring login times. These measures were lifted towards the end of 2021. In Sweden, it is illegal to advertise gambling between 6 AM and 9 PM.