A regulatory snapshot of igaming across the EU – February 2019

As published in iGaming Business and updated by Beth French and Chris Elliott, Wiggin Associates.

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, Casinos Austria, which has exclusive rights until 2027.

Status: The CJEU has held that the Austrian casino monopoly is incompatible with EU law in a number of cases, although national courts continue to reach conflicting decisions on the compatibility of Austria’s current gambling legislative framework with EU law and the position remains unclear. Draft amendments to the Gambling Act, which would introduce ISP-blocking measures and an express provision rendering gambling contracts contrary to the Gambling Act void, were withdrawn in early 2018. It is unclear if the initial draft will be republished.

BELGIUM

Regulated gambling products: Sports betting, horse race betting, poker, casino, bingo and lottery.

Operator type: All products are available to private operators except for lotteries, which are reserved exclusively for the monopoly provider. However, online operators need to partner with a land-based licence holder in order to satisfy a local establishment requirement; alternatively, apply for one of the retail licences that can be extended to cover online.

Status: There remain valid arguments that the existing regime is incompatible with Belgium’s EU Treaty obligations. Active enforcement measures against operators and players are in place. On 1 January 2019, a royal decree on the operation of games of chance partially entered into force, introducing restrictions on increases to stake limits. The rest of the provisions, which will restrict gambling advertising, are set to enter into effect in June 2019.

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 except for lotteries, which are reserved exclusively for the monopoly.

Status: Any operator from an EU/EEA jurisdiction or the Swiss Confederation can apply for a licence. The Bulgarian regulator has awarded approximately 28 licences to date, including to a number of international operators. The government has proposed amendments to the country’s gambling legislation which, among other things, would introduce stringent restrictions on gambling advertising. Active ISP-blocking is in place.

CROATIA

Regulated gambling products: Sports betting, horse race betting, poker, casino, bingo and lottery.

Operator type: All products are available to private operators except 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: It was understood that Croatia would submit new legislation following its accession to the EU in 2013 but attempts on the Ministry to update its gambling legislation have been subject to similar criticism in respect of EU incompatibility issues (including the requirement that only holders of land-based licences can offer online gambling). Regulatory reforms appear to have stalled in the country.

CYPRUS

Regulated gambling products: Sports betting, horse race betting and lottery.

Operator type: OPAP has 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 until 2016. ISPs are obliged to implement blocking measures to prohibit Cypriot residents from accessing unlicensed gambling websites. Cyprus has notified a number of new draft laws to the European Commission in response to EU incompatibility concerns, however; at the time of writing, these appear to remain pending at a national level.

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: The new gambling regulatory regime entered into force in the Czech Republic on 1 January 2017, allowing EU/EEA companies to enter the market. ISP-blocking measures are active in the jurisdiction.

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. Lottery is 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 to block operators and suppliers that have been targeting Danish customers without the requisite licence. Danish political parties have reached an agreement to introduce limits on bonuses. The Ministry of Taxation is understood to be aiming for a 1 July 2019 implementation, although the exact proposed changes are currently unknown.

ESTONIA

Regulated gambling products: Sports betting, horse race betting, poker, casino, bingo and lottery.

Operator type: Licences for all gambling products are available to private operators save for lotteries, which are reserved exclusively for the monopoly operator.

Status: Operators seeking to accept business from players in Estonia must be issued an activity licence for the type of gambling they wish to offer, then an operating permit to provide the services remotely. A blacklist of operators is maintained and updated by local authorities and ISP and payment blocking is in force. Though some operators argue that the regime is still not compatible with EU law, no notification alleging incompatibility has been issued by the EC since the requirement for licensees to main servers in Estonia was removed. 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 monopoly provider Veikkaus Oy.

Status: Despite the existence of a national monopoly, EC enforcement action was dropped subsequent to various changes to Finnish laws. Active enforcement measures are in place (restrictive marketing for offshore operators in particular).

FRANCE      

Regulated gambling products: Sports betting, horse race betting, poker, bingo and lottery.

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

Status: A regulated market since the introduction of a licensing regime in 2010, following which the EC withdrew its infringement proceedings. Parliament has given its formal approval to plans to privatise the state-owned operator of France’s national lottery games, Française des Jeux (FDJ), with broader regulatory changes to the online sector expected to follow.

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 permit only sports betting and horse race betting.

Operator type: Private operators can no longer obtain licences in Schleswig-Holstein under the existing regime and those in existence will expire by 30 June 2019, although S-H has introduced a quasi licensing regime for sports betting (intended to be of a transitional nature). 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 main legal framework for gambling regulation in Germany has been the subject of much debate and has been heavily criticised by the EC and interested parties/states within Germany for a number of years. Its legal standing is questionable, particularly in light of a decision of the CJEU (in Sebat Ince, 2016), which found the sports betting tender process to be incompatible with EU law and called into question the restrictive remote gambling regime in general. In 2017, a Federal Administrative Court ruling upheld the ban on online casinos and poker. The ruling, which is now the subject of a constitutional complaint, appears to have led to action by local regulators seeking to enforce the prohibition of online casinos by issuing interdiction letters to operators. Payment-blocking initiatives are also being pursued.

Discussions to reform the existing legislation have not moved forward, although there are certain states which are becoming more aligned to the idea of reformation.

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. Licensed operators are required to source gambling software from commission-licensed businesses. Remote Gaming Duty is set to be increased to cover a shortfall in lost tax revenue resulting from a reduction in maximum stakes on fixed odds betting terminals from £100 to £2. Both changes are set to take effect from April 2019.

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. The Government has published draft amendments to the country’s Gambling Law which if implemented as proposed, will introduce an open licensing regime with unlimited licences, prohibit RNG-based games and maintain the current 35% GGR tax.

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-Szervezo Kft) and local concession companies can apply for a licence.

Status: Amendments to Hungarian gambling law came into force on 1 October 2015 and allow only two land-based casinos to hold remote casino concessions. The regulator has since issued fines, a number of which have been challenged, against unlicensed operators that continue to target the market. In June 2017, the ECJ determined Hungary’s gambling regime to be incompatible with Article 56 TFEU. A subsequent ECJ decision in February 2018 ruled against the Hungarian requirement that online gambling operators must have a land-based licence to offer online gambling services to Hungarian citizens, further strengthening arguments that the current regime is incompatible with EU law. The Hungarian Ministry of Justice has stated its intention to continue to seek to enforce the existing regime despite the most recent ruling. A draft bill that would introduce payment-blocking measures was notified to the EC on 15 December 2017, although the bill does appears to have stalled.

IRELAND

Regulated gambling products: Online gaming is not specifically accounted for in Ireland’s outdated legislation and as such is currently unregulated.

Operator type: Online betting regulated since August 2015.

Status: Ireland is currently updating its legislation, which will create a comprehensive igaming regime. In January 2018, the Irish Cabinet gave the go-ahead to draft a new version of a bill that was first proposed in 2013. This has now been subsumed into the Gambling Control Bill 2018, which was introduced by Ireland’s opposition party in February 2018 as a private member’s bill. Amendments to the Gaming and Lotteries Act 1956 have also been proposed. Legislative progress is not expected until late 2019 at the earliest. The Irish government has announced its 2019 budget, doubling the betting duty from 1% to 2% tax on turnover with effect from 1 January 2019.

ITALY

Regulated gambling products: Sports betting, horse race betting, poker, casino, bingo and lottery.

Operator type: Fully regulated market, although lotteries are the subject of a state monopoly.

Status: Remote gambling licences are granted within specific application windows. The last tender process for applications closed on 19 March 2018. On 7 August 2018, the Italian parliament approved a decree which prohibits gambling advertising and sponsorship. The ban took effect on 14 July 2018, although ongoing advertising and sponsorship contracts remain valid until the earlier of their expiration date or 14 July 2019. The Italian regulator recently published a list of companies that have been awarded online gambling licences following the 2018 tender process.

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 and lottery.

Operator type: Private operators can apply for a local licence (except for lottery products).

Status: Malta has approved a new Gaming Act that replaces all existing gaming legislation with a single piece of legislation, supplemented by secondary legislation. The Gaming Act, with directives and regulations, is effective 1 August 2018.

NETHERLANDS

Regulated gambling products: Sports betting, horse race betting, poker, casino, bingo and lottery.
Operator type: Monopoly for all products.
Status: On 19 February 2019, the Dutch parliament approved the Remote Gambling Bill, which will introduce an online gambling licensing regime.  It is understood that operators that have directly “targeted” the Dutch market may face a two-year blackout period  before being eligible for a licence. Implementation of a licensing regime will not likely emerge for some time. In the interim, the regulator is expected to continue to implement enforcement measures against operators targeting Dutch players.

NORWAY

Regulated gambling products: Sports betting, horse race betting and lottery.

Operator type: Online gambling is reserved for the two monopoly providers, Norsk Tipping and Norsk Rikstoto.

Status: The monopoly has extended its offering to include live betting, online bingo and casino games in an attempt to redirect traffic from unlicensed sites. The Norwegian regulator continues to step up enforcement efforts against unregulated operators, local banks and payment service providers. On 4 June 2018, the Ministry of Culture notified a draft regulation to the EC that would establish payment-blocking measures although these remain pending at a national level. The European Gaming and Betting Association is understood to have filed a legal challenge against the proposed measures.

POLAND

Regulated gambling products: Sports betting, horse race betting, casino and poker.

Operator type: Betting licences are available for companies with a representative in Poland. Casino and poker are reserved for a state monopoly.

Status: Legislation enacted 1 January 2012 permits betting. Online gaming (including poker) is no longer prohibited as of 1 April 2017, although the exclusive rights to offer such products are reserved for a state monopoly. Provisions that provide for the establishment of a blacklist of unlicensed operators and ISP and payment blocking came into force on 1 July 2017. The blacklist contains more than 1,000 domain names. 

PORTUGAL

Regulated gambling products: Sports betting, horse race betting, poker, casino, bingo and 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: A regulated market since 2015. Although operators can now apply for licences, their Portuguese revenue streams are subject to comparatively high tax rates, particularly in sports betting (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. On 13 October 2018, the government approved the state budget law for 2019 which proposes the introduction of a flat rate of 25% tax on GGY for all games but it is unclear if/when this will be introduced.

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 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 that fully implemented the new licensing regime came into force on 26 February 2016. In December 2018, the Romanian government approved an ordinance which, among other things, introduces a new 2% tax on player deposits for online gambling operators as of 1 January 2019.

SLOVAKIA

Regulated gambling products: Sports betting, horse race betting, poker, casino, bingo and lottery.

Operator type: Monopoly, save that land-based sports-betting operators can offer services online owing to a legal loophole.

Status: A new Gambling Law was approved at the end of January 2019, which will introduce an new open licensing regime.  Implementing regulations are still awaited.  Private operators incorporated outside Slovakia will be able to apply for online gambling licences for the first time.

SLOVENIA

Regulated gambling products: Sports betting, horse race betting, poker, casino, bingo and 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: Draft amendments to the Gaming Act were published in 2015, which aim to remove the current local establishment requirement. The proposal is yet to be submitted to the Slovenian parliament, although it is expected to be adopted in early 2019. Whether any amendments will introduce a formal licensing system remains unclear.

SPAIN

Regulated gambling products: Sports betting, horse race betting, poker, casino, bingo and lottery.

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

Status: Operators must hold a general licence and a specific licence, both issued by the National Gambling Commission, for each activity. Remote gambling licences are granted within specific application windows. The last tender process for applications closed on 18 December 2018. The 2018 parliamentary budget was passed into law in June 2018, resulting in a reduction to gambling tax effective as of 1 July 2018. The DGOJ has introduced a number of new player protection initiatives. More stringent restrictions on gambling advertising in the country may take effect in the near future.

SWEDEN

Regulated gambling products: Betting (including sports, horse race, pool, exchanges), casino, poker, bingo and lottery.

Operator type: Licences are available for private operators.

Status: As of 1 January 2019, Sweden is a fully regulated market. All gambling operators that wish to offer their services to Swedish residents will be required to obtain a licence in order to validly do so (either a ‘betting’ licence or a ‘commercial online games’ licence, depending on the product(s) being offered).