A regulatory snapshot of igaming across the EU – June 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.

 

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 restrict gambling advertising, entered into effect on 1 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. A new betting law, which entered into force in March 2019, replaces the 2012 Betting Law. The provisions of the new law are substantially the same, with minor amends introduced to address EU incompatibility concerns under the previous law (such as the requirement to have a local branch in order to obtain a sports betting licence).

 

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. Tax rates are reportedly set to increase to up to 30% of GGR for certain online gambling activities from January 2020.

 

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) and the new government is exploring measures to further restrict the offshore supply of gambling services.

 

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. Law 2019-486, providing for the privatisation of the state-owned operator of France’s national lottery games, Française des Jeux (FDJ), has been published in the French Official Journal. 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, although S-H has approved legislation to reinstate existing licences until 2021 (with operations allowed to continue in the interim). S-H has also 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 pending the ratification of the 3rd Amendment Treaty.

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. Discussions to reform the existing legislation have resulted in the approval of the 3rd Amendment Treaty on 21 March 2019. The Amendment proposes to remove the limit on the number of sports betting licences and re-introduce a sports betting process. The ban on online casino will remain in place, although an exception to the prohibition for S-H appears likely. The Amendment still needs to be ratified by each German state by 31 December 2019 before it can become binding law across Germany.

 

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 has been 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 took effect 1 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 submitted draft amendments to the country’s Gambling Law to the EC approval which, if implemented as proposed, will introduce an open licensing regime for online sports betting, live casino and peer-to-peer poker. The right to permit RNG-based casino games has been reserved to the Ministry of Finance (on recommendation of the Hellenic Gaming Commission).

 

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 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 has been contemplated updating its legislation, which will create a comprehensive igaming regime, for some time. In April 2019, an inter-departmental working group on the future licensing and regulation of gambling published a report indicating that a reform of Irish betting and gaming laws may finally be going ahead in the near future. Legislative progress is not expected until late 2019 at the earliest.

 

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 communications regulator recently released guidelines for the ad ban with the hope of clarifying its scope.

 

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. The government has also published various proposals to stem the flow of gambling supply from offshore, including the introduction of enhanced enforcement powers to prevent gambling advertising from abroad and ISP and payment blocking 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: Private operators can apply for licences for online casino as of 1 March 2019 and for sports betting licences from 1 July 2019. Lottery and bingo remain reserved for the monopoly provider.

Status: A new Gambling Law came into force on 1 March 2019. The Gambling Law allows private operators outside of Slovakia to apply for licences for sports betting and casino, although sports betting licences will not enter into effect until July 2020.

 

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, which is yet to be submitted to the Slovenian parliament, was 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). Active enforcement measures are in place and the Swedish regulator has already issued a number of monetary fines to licensed operators for self-exclusion and marketing failures.