European Regulation

This article was first published by iGaming Business in its March 2017 edition.

In conjunction with iGaming Business, Chris Elliott and Beth French provide a regulatory snapshot of igaming markets across the EU. This includes all regulated products and legalised operator types, and any impending market updates. Denmark, Germany and Poland are among those updated for this issue.

Austria      

Regulated Gambling Products: Sports betting, horse race betting, poker, casino, bingo and lottery.

Operator Type: Licences for sports betting and horse race betting are available for private operators on a regional basis within Austria whereas poker, casino, bingo and lottery are controlled by the monopoly, Austria Lotteries.

Status: An appeal challenging Austrian tax legislation is seen as a test case by other offshore operators targeting Austrian business. 2016 court decisions reached conflicting decisions on the compatibility of Austria’s current gambling legislative framework with EU law, which remains unclear. The Austrian government put forward a proposal to block unlicensed offshore operators targeting the country, although next steps are unclear.

Belgium       

Regulated Gambling Products: Sports betting, horse race betting, poker, casino, bingo and lottery.

Operator Type: All products are available to private operators save for lotteries, which are reserved exclusively for the monopoly provider. However, online operators need to partner up with local casinos in order to satisfy the land-based establishment requirement; or alternatively, apply for one of the 34 retail licences (F1 licences) which can be extended to cover online (F1+ licence).

Status: The regulator recently introduced rules to prevent live casino products being offered to players unless the dealers are physically in Belgium. The potential for EC infringement proceedings remains. The Belgian government has applied VAT of 21% on online gambling transactions with effect from 1 July 2016.

Bulgaria    

Regulated Gambling Products: Sports betting, horse race betting, poker, casino, bingo and lottery (excluding raffles and instant lottery games).

Operator Type: All products are available to private operators save for lotteries, which are reserved exclusively for the monopoly provider.

Status: Bulgaria’s Gambling Act became law on 1 July 2012 but licences were not available until mid-2013 as further implementing legislation needed to be in force. Any operator from an EU/EEA jurisdiction or the Swiss Confederation can apply for a licence. The Bulgarian regulator has subsequently issued licences, including to a number of international operators, and recently removed the restriction on Gibraltar-based applicants. The change from a turnover to a GGR tax-based system has prompted a number of operators to apply for a local licence.

Croatia      

Regulated Gambling Products: Sports betting, horse race betting, poker, casino, bingo and lottery.

Operator Type: All products are available to private operators save for lotteries, which are reserved exclusively for the monopoly provider. Private operators can only be licensed to offer online gambling if they obtain a land-based casino or betting licence.

Status: Following Croatia’s accession to the EU in July 2013, it was understood it would submit new legislation which was compatible with European law. However, on 5 March 2014 the Croatian government notified a draft bill which seeks to embolden the position of the monopoly and local operators. The draft bill still stipulates that only land-based casinos and betting operators can apply for a licence. ISP blocking is also proposed. The receipt of a Detailed Opinion from the EC stalled the legislative process and there have been no developments since.

Cyprus    

Regulated Gambling Products: Sports betting, horse race betting and lottery.

Operator Type: OPAP have a monopoly over lottery operations; sports betting licences are available to private operators.

Status: Cyprus regulated online betting in July 2012, although a licensing regime was not established at the time until 2016.Applications for online sports betting licences were accepted for a one-month period only from 3 October to 3 November 2016. Following the closure of the licensing window, the government announced they would implement blocking measures with the publication of a blacklist, and warned local ISP providers that they would face fines for failures to block sites offering unlicensed gambling products. The first sports betting licence was granted in January 2017.

Czech Republic   

Regulated Gambling Products: Sports betting, horse race betting, poker, casino, bingo and lottery.

Operator Type: EU and EEA-based operators are able to apply for licences.

Status: Amendments to Czech Republic’s gambling legislation became effective on 1 January 2017, and allows EU/EEA companies to apply for online licences. A delay in issuing detailed secondary regulations meant that no licence applicants were granted licences ahead of the introduction of the licensing regime. The first licence was granted on 28 January 2017. No transitional/grace period for licence applicants whilst awaiting full licensure.

Denmark     

Regulated Gambling Products: Sports betting, fantasy sports, horse race betting, poker, casino, bingo and lottery.

Operator Type: Sports betting, poker and casino licences are available to private operators. Bingo, lottery and horse race betting (fixed odds only) are controlled by the state monopoly.

Status: The Danish online gambling regime went live on 1 January 2012. ISP-blocking measures are active in the jurisdiction and the Danish Gaming Authority has been granted an injunction in order to block operators and suppliers that have been targeting Danish customers without the requisite licence. Following a government announcement earlier this year, Denmark has submitted draft legislation to the EC that aims to open up online bingo and horse race betting markets to private operators. The standstill period ends on 2 June 2017.

Estonia      

Regulated Gambling Products: Sports betting, horse race betting, poker, casino, bingo and lottery.

Operator Type: Licences for all gambling products are available for private operators save that the monopoly has exclusive rights to lottery.

Status: As of June 2016, only 16 operators are licensed in the jurisdiction, 12 of which operate online gambling. A “blacklist” of around 1,100 operators is constantly maintained and updated by local authorities and ISP blocking is in force. A new law which introduces new player protection measures and relaxes certain online sports betting advertising restrictions came into force in June 2015. Further amendments introduced in January 2016 extend the application of self-exclusion lists to lottery and sports-betting players.

Finland        

Regulated Gambling Products: Sports betting, horse race betting, poker, casino, bingo and lottery.

Operator Type: All gambling products are under the exclusive control of the three monopoly providers, Raha-automaatiyhdistys (“RAY”), Fintoto Oy and Veikkaus Oy. The monopolies merged into one state entity as of 1 January 2017.

Status: An ECJ ruling confirmed that Finland’s three monopoly providers are legally permitted, which was subsequently written into law. In November 2013, the EC also withdrew infringement proceedings. Active enforcement measures are in place (restrictive marketing for offshore operators and ISP blocking).

France                    

Regulated Gambling Products: Sports betting, horse race betting, poker and lottery.

Operator Type: Private operators can obtain online licences for sports betting, horse race betting and poker. The monopoly has exclusive rights to lottery.

Status: France is a regulated market that has been sanctioned by the EC.

Parliament announced that it would conduct a full review of French gambling legislation in 2016. On 7 October 2016, the Digital Republic Act came into force, allowing international poker liquidity. Other provisions of the Act include the introduction of a new mechanism allowing players to self-limit the time spent playing games such as online poker and provisions relating to the organisation of e-sports tournaments.

Germany     

Regulated Gambling Products: Schleswig-Holstein, a small Northern German state, regulates sports betting, horse race betting, poker, casino and bingo. The other 15 states of Germany currently only permit sports betting and horse race betting.

Operator Type: Private operators can no longer obtain licences in Schleswig-Holstein, and those in existence will expire on 30 June 2019. In the other 15 states, horse race betting licences are available at a regional level but the position surrounding the 20 available sports betting licences is still uncertain.

Status: The licensing regime in Germany is in a state of flux. The tender for 20 Federal sports betting licences was abortive, following a number of appeals by operators who were not granted a licence. The CJEU ruled in 2016 that Germany’s sports betting regulation is incompatible with EU law and that enforcement actions will be unlawful where none of the 20 licences could, in practice, be acquired. The decision led to calls for comprehensive legal reform of Germany’s gambling legislation. In March 2017, all 16 German states signed amendments to the country’s gambling law which will allow for an unlimited number of sports betting licences (including temporary licences to those operators that fulfilled the minimum requirements in the 2012 sports betting tender), although the ban on online casinos will be upheld. The decision to only make minimal amendments to the Treaty has drawn widespread criticism, particularly from the European Commission. Amendments are scheduled to enter into force on 1 January 2018.

Great Britain      

Regulated Gambling Products: Sports betting, horse race betting, poker, casino, bingo and lottery.

Operator Type: All licences are available to private operators save for lottery, which is reserved exclusively for the monopoly provider, Camelot.

Status: Any operator that transacts with, or advertises to, British residents requires a licence from the Gambling Commission. From 31 March 2015, licensed operators are required to source gambling software from Commission-licensed businesses.

A corresponding tax rate of 15% of gross profits was introduced on 1 December 2014. This is subject to an ongoing judicial review by a Gibraltar trade association and its questions regarding its compatibility with European law. The Treasury is confident that it can defend its position. On 5 December 2016, the UK government published its responses to the consultation on freeplay tax treatment for remote gaming, announcing that the first use of freeplays will be taxed and winnings will be brought into the duty calculation at the end of the re-wagering process. The changes are set to be included in the Finance Bill 2017 and are due to come into force on 1 August 2017.

Greece        

Regulated Gambling Products: Sports betting, horse race betting and lottery.

Operator Type: All products are exclusively reserved for the monopoly providers although 24 transitional licences for private operators remain active, with all products permitted.

Status: The enabling regulations that implement a Greek online gambling licensing regime are yet to be implemented. In 2012, a “transition period” commenced whereby the Greek government granted 24 transitional licences to operators enabling them to keep transacting with Greek residents. Greece’s government has since announced its intention to issue licences for online gambling to end the ongoing transition position. The fate of the 24 licences is still unclear, although a continued delay to the implementation of the legislation has led to the EC sending a letter of enquiry to the Greek authorities at the beginning of 2017 to question the lack of development in the remote gambling sector. A tax increase has been established on gross gaming revenues, increasing the rate from 30% to 35% as of May 2016.

Hungary    

Regulated Gambling Products: Sports betting, horse race betting, poker, casino, bingo and lottery.

Operator Type: Only the state monopolies (Szerencsejáték Zrt. and Magyar Lóversenyfogadást-SzervezőKft) and local concession companies can apply for a licence.

Status: Amendments to Hungarian gambling law came into force on 1 October 2015 which allow only two land-based casinos to hold remote casino concessions. The regulator has since issued fines against unlicensed operators who continue to target the market. ISP blocking of unlicensed sites has occurred since June 2014. The potential for EC infringement proceedings remains.

Ireland     

Regulated Gambling Products: Online gaming is not specifically accounted for in Ireland’s outdated legislation and as such is currently unregulated. Online betting regulated since August 2015.

Status: Ireland is in the process of updating its legislation which will create a comprehensive online gambling regime and payment restrictions. More substantive developments are expected in 2017. The Betting (Amendment) Act 2015 now requires remote bookmakers to hold a licence, and pay a 1% turnover-based betting duty.

Italy

Regulated Gambling Products: Sports betting, horse race betting, poker, casino, bingo and lottery.

Operator Type: All products available to private operators save for lottery which is reserved for the monopoly provider. However, it is currently not possible to obtain a licence in Italy.

Status: Fully regulated market. A recently passed Stability Law introduces various measures affecting the remote gambling industry, including tax changes and plans for tighter advertising rules. The law will provide for the award of 120 new online gaming licences (lasting for six years). The tender process for the award of the licences has been delayed, but it was recently announced that these would be issued in Q1 of 2017.

 Luxembourg      

Regulated Gambling Products: Lottery

Operator Type: Monopoly.

Status: The general prohibition on gambling appears sufficiently wide to cover all forms of online gambling.

Malta          

Regulated Gambling Products: Sports betting, horse race betting, poker, casino, bingo, lottery.

Operator Type: Private operators can apply for a local licence (save for lottery products).

Status: On 3 June, Maltese regulator the Malta Gaming Authority introduced a number of policy changes. These include changes regarding hosting servers abroad, audit requirements and the cloud environment. Malta recently introduced the Skill Games Regulations 2016 which established a regulatory framework for skill games for prizes. The new legislation forms part of Malta’s plans to modernise online gambling rules, with further amendments to Malta’s gambling laws expected throughout the course of 2017.

Netherlands       

Regulated Gambling Products: Sports betting, horse race betting, poker, casino, bingo, lottery.

Operator Type: After two years of parliamentary debate, the Dutch Lower House approved the Online Gambling Bill which will introduce an online gambling licensing regime in the Netherlands. The legislation will impose a 29% GGR tax on both online and land-based operators. The Bill still requires approval from the Senate and licensing is not expected to commence until at least 2019. In the interim, the regulator continues to implement enforcement measures against those operators targeting Dutch players.. In May 2016, a Dutch court upheld fines issued by the regulator in the first such case to go to trial.

Norway      

Regulated Gambling Products: Sports betting, horse race betting and lottery

Operator Type: Online gambling is reserved for its two monopoly providers: Norsk Tipping and Norsk Rikstoto.

Status: The monopoly has extended its offering to include live betting, e-bingo and casino games in an attempt to redirect traffic from unlicensed sites. The government published a long-awaited white paper on how best to regulate the gambling sector in March 2017. The new government was understood to be considering a limited licensing regime for foreign operators; however, the white paper instead proposes that the gambling monopoly remain in place and no licensing system be introduced.

Poland   

Regulated Gambling Products: Sports betting and horse race betting. Casino and poker to be regulated from 1 April 2017.

Operator Type: Betting licences are available for companies with a representative in Poland. Casino and poker will be reserved for a state monopoly from 1 April 2017.

Status: Legislation enacted 1 January 2012 only permits betting and there are currently only five licensed operators in Poland (Fortuna, Milenium, STS, E-Toto and Totolotek). In December 2016, a Government bill proposing amendments to the Gambling Act was approved which removes the current prohibition on online gaming (including poker), although reserves the exclusive rights to offer such products to a state monopoly. The amendments also provide for the establishment of a blacklist of unlicensed operators and the introduction of ISP and payment blocking. The amendments will come into force on April 2017, with the exception of provisions relating to enforcement which will come into force on 1 July 2017.

Portugal

Regulated Gambling Products: Sports betting, horse race betting, poker, casino, bingo, lottery.

Operator Type: Any EU/EEA operator can apply to be granted a licence for online gambling. Lottery games and land-based fixed odds sports betting remain reserved for a monopoly.

Status: Portugal’s online gambling legislation was passed by Parliament in late February 2015 and came into force on 29 June 2015. While operators can now apply for licences, their Portuguese revenue streams will be subject to comparatively high tax rates, particularly sports betting, the subject of a 8-16% tax on turnover. In 2015, the RGA filed a state aid case with the EC challenging the Portuguese betting tax as breaking EU trade rules. There is no deadline for the licensing window or limit on the number of licences that may be issued. Delayed technical standards were introduced in December 2016, paving the way for operators to certify their online systems to obtain a licence. The regulator is known to have granted five licences.

Romania

Regulated Gambling Products: Sports betting, horse race betting, casino, bingo and lottery.

Operator Type: Any operator from an EU/EEA jurisdiction or the Swiss Confederation can apply for a licence. Lottery games remain reserved for the monopoly.

Status: The Romanian government passed legislation at the end of 2014 that allows entities within the EU to apply for a licence, imposes a reform on licence fees and eliminates many (but not all) of the tax burdens placed on player revenues. The Gambling Law (as amended) introduced a legal framework for a fully regulated online gambling market, and requires licences to be held by online gambling operators, as well as software providers, payment processors, affiliates and testing labs. After some delay, the secondary legislation which fully implemented the new licensing regime came into force on 26 February 2016. The National Office for Gambling in Romania published a blacklist of unlicensed gambling operators in July 2015.

Slovakia     

Regulated Gambling Products: Sports betting, horse race betting, poker, casino, bingo, lottery.

Operator Type: All products are operated by the monopoly save that land-based sports betting operators can offer services online due to a legal loophole.

Status: In November 2016, a bill amending the existing gambling legal framework was approved. The amendments, which entered into force on 1 January 2017, include the introduction of ISP and payment blocking of illegal online gambling offerings in the Slovak territory. The supervisory function in respect of ISP and payment blocking measures will not be active until July 2017. Whether amendments will also be made to introduce a formal licensing system remains unclear.

Slovenia    

Regulated Gambling Products: Sports betting, horse race betting, poker, casino, bingo, lottery.

Operator Type: Online gambling must be operated by land-based casinos or lotteries and, as a result, only the monopoly holds online licences in Slovenia.

Status: The Finance Ministry notified secondary regulations for the operation of online gambling services to the European Commission on 17 August 2016. The proposals would remove the cap on the number of online gambling licences the requirement for a local establishment, although sports betting would remain as a monopoly.

Spain

Regulated Gambling Products: Sports betting, horse race betting, casino, poker, bingo and lottery.

Operator Type: Private operators can apply for licences for all gambling products save for lottery.

Status: The first online licences were issued on 1 June 2012. Under the law, online operators must hold a general licence and a specific licence for each activity from the National Gambling Commission. In June 2015, 10 new licences were awarded to new operators, the first new licensees since the market opened in 2012. 25 online slot permits were also issued to new and existing licensees. This followed on from the approval of the regulation of slots and approval of the regulation of betting exchanges.

Sweden      

Regulated Gambling Products: Sports betting, horse race betting, poker, bingo and lottery.

Operator Type: Only public benefit organisations, the horseracing industry and the state lottery may obtain a licence. No local licences for private operators.

Status: The Swedish government is under pressure to update its regulations. The commencement of infringement proceedings by the EC appeared to mobilise the Government. However a bill that sets out to strengthen the position of gambling monopolies has been submitted to parliament and is expected to enter into force on 1 January 2017. Simultaneously, the Government has confirmed it is proceeding with an investigation into reforming the law with a view to potentially opening the market to private operators in due course. The review will conclude at the end of March 2017.