There is no specific and uniform legislation in EU governing the field of gambling services. EU member states are autonomous and free to regulate on their gambling services, as long as they comply with the fundamental freedoms and general provisions as established under the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU). Most EU countries allow at least some games to be offered online. Some countries allow all games, while others only allow certain types such as betting, poker or casino games. In some European jurisdictions, monopolistic regimes offering online gambling services have been established. These are run by a state-controlled public operator or by a private operator on the basis of an exclusive right.
Laws in several countries
In 2012, Cyprus introduced the Betting Law 2012, as amended in 2019 (the ‘‘Law’’), which regulates the betting activities. The Law clarified the legislative framework in relation to these activities as well as filled some gaps which were missing from the Cyprus legislation. Gambling is owned and operated by the state only to a limited extent, while private entities are permitted to offer gambling activities subject to the provisions of the Law.
The following betting services are strictly prohibited in Cyprus either in land-based premises or via online platforms:
- Betting on horse races;
- Limited betting games machines;
- Spread betting;
- Dog racing; and
- Bitcoin gambling.
The National Betting Authority (the ‘‘NBA’’) is the supervisory authority of all the gambling activities in Cyprus. The responsibilities of the NBA include examining applications, licensing, auditing and supervising betting shops and online betting operators as well as examining any complaints and suspending any licenses in relation to those.
There are two forms of license available under the Law:
- The Class A license, which regulates land betting services within physical licensed premises, excluding Class B services (online) and horseracing; and
- The Class B license, which regulates online betting services excluding slot machines, online casinos and lotteries.
Therefore, Class A license is about land based casinos while Class B license is exclusively about online activities. Licenses are issued for one or two years and may be renewed subject to the approval of the NBA. The transfer of an operating license is strictly prohibited. Currently the only online gambling activity permitted is sports betting.
The supervision, monitoring and control of gambling operators in Greece are carried out by the Hellenic Gaming Commission (HGC), which consists of nine members appointed by the Ministry of Finance. A license is required for both land-based and online gaming. Currently, online gambling services in the country can be provided by licensed legal entities in a variety of games including poker, bingo, casino gaming, sports betting and lotteries. In regards to online gaming there are two licenses available. The “Type A” license which is about online betting and the “Type B” license for other online games, where casino and poker games are included. Land-based casino licenses are divided into “simple type casinos licenses” and “wider range casino licenses”. Simple type casinos include gaming areas that can also offer accommodation of at least three stars as well as shops while wider range casinos combine gamin facilities with accommodations classified by five stars, shops and at least one installation of special tourism infrastructure such as conference halls or golf facilities.
Malta was the first EU Member State to provide services to gambling companies and is now the largest remote gaming jurisdiction worldwide. As a result, a range of online services and facilities in the gaming industry are available. Established in 2001 the Malta Gaming Authority (MGA) set up to regulate most forms of gambling in the country. This includes land-based activities such as casinos as well as their online counterparts, comprising B2C and B2B services.
- B2B (business-to-business)—the product or service offered is intended for business use, not the consumer. These include software developers that produce casino games or betting infrastructure, payment service providers and customer support frameworks.
- B2C (business-to-consumer)—businesses that sell a product or service to the end-user. These are the online casinos, sports bookmakers and lottery commissions.
The B2C license can cover any one or more of the following game types:
- Type one: games of chance played against the house, the outcome of which is determined by a random number generator. This includes casino-type games, including roulette, blackjack, baccarat, poker played against the house, lotteries, secondary lotteries and virtual sports games.
- Type two: games of chance played against the house, the outcome of which is not generated randomly, but is determined by the result of an event or competition extraneous to a game of chance, and by which the operator manages its own risk by managing the odds offered to the player.
- Type three: games of chance not played against the house and in which the operator is not exposed to gaming risk, but generates revenue by taking a commission or other charge based on the stakes or the prize, and include player versus player games such as poker, bingo, betting exchange, and other commission based games.
- Type four gaming services: controlled skill games like fantasy sports betting.
Issuance of licenses in relation to gambling in Lithuania are under the umbrella of the Gaming Control Authority. There are currently five types of licenses for gambling:
- Table games and category A gaming;
- Category B machine gaming;
- Totalizator; and
A single company may be granted all five types of licenses.
The following activities are strictly prohibited:
- People are prohibited to participate in betting where bets are made on betting events, wherein they participate themselves or they themselves can affect the outcome. This also includes events which are participated by their family members or close relatives.
- People are prohibited to participate in totalizator where bets are made on sports event, wherein they participate themselves or they themselves can affect the outcome. This also includes events which are participated by their family members or close relatives.
- Gaming operators are prohibited from offering services of illegitimate conditions or conditions in conflict with public order or good morals and/or performance of illegitimate actions.
- The organisation of bets on dog and horse races created by a remote gaming device is possible via remote gaming devices. The organisation of other betting on events that are created by a remote gaming device is prohibited.
Netherlands has recently enacted its first law in relation to online gambling. Until that time any online gambling activity was prohibited. Now, only two types of gambling license can be awarded to operators, and they include sports betting and casino gaming. Included in these two categories are various types or modes of gambling that would be permitted or prohibited. They include casino game, poker, slot machines, pari-mutuel betting, short-odds bingo, exchange betting, sports betting with fixed odds, live betting, will all be permitted. Online lotteries, betting on non-sports activities and spread betting would remain prohibited. Virtual sports will be permitted if they satisfy conditions.
Gambling regulations in Spain have passed through multiple modifications. The latest amendments provided that online casinos could operate in the country, subject to certain conditions. The licenses are received by the Spanish National Gaming Commission if the gaming operators meet the relevant requirements and conditions. The requirements entail the need for a gaming operator to obtain a general license that allows it to use the permitted game modes and a single license that allows its holder to use a specific regulated gambling modality. Only the gambling operators who have a general license may request a single license. Obtaining these licenses requires the fulfilment of a number of legal, technical and economical requirements and entails the fulfilment of a series of obligations by gaming operators. In general, Spanish residents can sign up, bet and play casino games at any of the licensed websites within the country.
Many forms of gambling are legal in France, and there are three main bodies responsible for its regulation. The Pari Mutuel Urbain deals with horse racing, the Francaise des Jeux deals with betting games and lotteries, and ARJEL deals with online gambling. In 2010 three forms of online gambling were officially legalized.
There are three types of licenses for the three forms of online gambling activities that are allowed by the French law:
- online sports betting (live betting, pool betting and fixed odds betting);
- online horse race betting (pool betting); and
- online poker game.
At this time licenses aren’t issued for casino games, spread betting, or exchange betting. The philosophy behind this decision is that these forms of gambling are highly addictive. Poker is one of the games played at casinos, but it is legal, because the outcome of the game depends on the skill of the player, who can alternate their strategy depending on the game situation. To date, there are no other gambling activities authorised under the French law.
Compared to many other European countries, the gambling laws in Italy are liberal. In 2006, many other European Union members were introducing or increasing restrictions on gambling while Italy introduced legislation allowing companies to provide sports betting services in retail locations and over the internet. In 2011 legislation amendments allowed licensees to provide poker and casino games to customers too. The Agenzia Dogane e Monopolio di Stato is responsible for ensuring a proper conduct of the online operators, preventing the violation of gambling rules and avoiding any fraud, corruption and money laundering in the Italian gambling sector. The licenses cover skill games, poker games, casino games, sports betting, lotteries, bingo and horse pools.
Italian players are not taxed on their winnings but instead the operators are burdened through taxes on revenues as well as licensing fees. Even though Italy has one of the broadest and most liberal gambling laws, Italy’s advertising and communications regulator Autorità per le Garanzie nelle Comunicazioni has recently confirmed that direct and indirect advertising, sponsorship or promotional communications will all be banned across the country.
The gambling laws in Germany are complex, and have changed a few times over the years. The new Interstate Treaty on Gambling 2021 (the “Interstate Treaty”), which came into force on 1 July 2021, distinguishes between online casino games and virtual slot games and it gives each state the choice of whether to impose a state monopoly or issue a very limited number of licenses to private operators. Land based casinos are regulated under state law and not federal law. The Interstate Treaty also provides for sports betting licensing. However social/financial betting or betting on visual sports is not permissible. Regional councils are responsible for the regulating of land-based sports betting at operator level. Betting shop licenses have to be applied at a state level with the local responsible regulator.
Sweden brought a new wave of laws which aimed to end the state-run online gambling company’s monopoly. The new laws aimed to open up the market to private operators in the future and help to expand the gambling market in the country. For many years the state-owned Svenska Spel was the only company permitted to offer online gambling in Sweden. This applied to all types of games, whether it be casino games, sports betting, or other forms of casino entertainment. Land based casinos are still owned by Svenska Spel however, in regards to online gambling the Swedish Gambling Authority is responsible for the provision of the relevant licenses.
United Kingdom is not an EU member but it is worthy to check their law. Both online and land based gambling is 100% legal as long as the provider is licensed by the United Kingdom Gambling Commission as per the provisions of the Gambling Act of 2005. The United Kingdom Gambling Commission is one of the strictest gambling bodies across the world. There are many games that fall under the jurisdiction of the Commission, namely poker, bingo, sports betting, and other popular casino games.
Ultimately, the Commission functions to ensure that three specific provisions of the Gambling Act of 2005 are met:
- Preventing gambling from being a source of crime or disorder, being associated with crime, disorder, or as an accessory to crime.
- Ensuring that gambling is conducted in a fair fashion.
- Protecting children and other vulnerable persons from being harmed or exploited by gambling.
In general the Commission is responsible for issuing operating licenses as well as imposing fines to the bodies that do not comply with the relevant regulations. In simple terms they make sure that innocent customers and gamblers receive fair treatment and are not subjected to any shady dealings as well as working with casinos to ensure a safe and fair gambling environment, having the latter have various tools to help players control their spending on the platform.
Europe has a variety of gambling markets. The Commission supports EU countries’ efforts to modernize and update their national online gambling legal frameworks, in particular in the framework of administrative cooperation between gambling regulatory authorities. It also provides support to ensure a high level of protection for consumers and vulnerable people, including minors. As a popular form of entertainment, regulators constantly encounter new hurdles and challenges that they need to overcome, and laws are often adjusted and amended to increase security. It remains to be seen whether the European community shall encompass a uniform law for its member states in the future.