Gambling Law in Europe
Understanding gambling laws governing the online gambling in different countries is quite complicated. The main reason behind this complexity can be attributed to the fact that every country has its own laws governing this form of entertainment. There are some countries which are quite liberal in their view regarding any sort of gaming whether in online or land based form. On the other hand there are some nations which totally prohibit such activities. There are some cases in which some countries have different gaming laws depending upon their local jurisdiction.
The best example of such multifaceted laws can be observed in United States of America. Each state has its own laws governing gambling and the federal laws are too complex for interpretation. This resulted in some of the states being quite liberal in their laws governing the gambling while some states are still in a quandary whether to move with the time and allow legal gambling.
The case of gambling laws in Europe is quite different from rest of the world. If we take in account European Union countries then there is no specific legislation that restricts or promotes legal gambling. All of the countries in EU are autonomous in their policies to allow such activities. The ones which allow gambling are bound by the law of fundamental freedom under TFEU. In this article we will go through the gambling laws governing some major European countries.
All sort of gambling activities are legal in United Kingdom. The online gambling is controlled by the Gambling Commission. All types of the gambling activities such as sports betting, poker, bingo, casino games and lotto type lotteries are controlled by this commission. The govt of United Kingdom does not penalize any sort of gambling and on the other hand tries to provide a safe environment for both the players and gaming operators. In contrast to the complicated and contradictory gambling laws in other countries, the laws in United Kingdom provide a clear mandate for providing and availing such services.
The rules and regulation related to online gambling makes it somewhat outlawed in Germany. To some extent these laws makes operating gambling sites totally illegal but on the other side there is no clear instructions guiding the placement of bets or participating in casino games by an individual . If the govt wants then they can clarify the act to make online betting totally illegal but till now they have not done anything to enforce this law. The residents of Germany can avail the services of overseas gaming operators as there are no casino or gaming sites which are licensed by German gaming authorities.
France can be categorized as one of the gambling friendly countries. All types of gambling activities ranging from land based casinos to online gaming are legal. The only twist is that France does not allow any type of casino games while other online gambling operations such as sports betting; card games and race betting are totally allowed. Even though it seems quite smooth for the residents of France to avail such services, for gaming operators it is not so easy. High taxes and interference by gaming commission makes it quite difficult for the gaming operators to run their businesses. High taxes on poker and sports betting also hurt the pockets of the local punters.
Russia is one of the strictest enforcers of anti-gambling laws. Before 2006 online gaming and gambling were allowed in this country. A law passed in 2006 restricted and banned all types of online gambling. The other legislation passed in 2009 banned all types of gambling activities except for the four specified zones. Today the Russian gamblers are opting for offshore gambling sites and sometimes even for the unauthorized ones. The ban on online gaming is so strict that the Russian govt has blacklisted all the gaming sites and made it mandatory to block all ISPs catering to online gambling. Even though all the major gaming sites allow Russian player to participate, the problem is that these players cannot access these sites via their internet services.
The only better thing which can be said about gambling laws in Poland is that they are not as stringent as in Russia. All in all, gambling is widely banned in this county but this does not dissuade the polish players to indulge in their favourite gaming activities. One can say that there are only limited local providers for online gambling and most of the players opt for the foreign operators. The only ray of sunshine for the online gambling is that Poland is yet not enforcing a ban on internet gaming and all the major online gambling sites are free to provide their services.
In Finland all the services related to gambling are controlled by the state. This includes both online and land based gambling. The Finnish govt has divided the gambling section between three entities, each responsible for a particular form of gambling. These three govt agencies are RAY, Veikkaus Oy and Fintoto Oy. The last two deals with lottery, betting, instant win and horse racing respectively. The RAY deals with land based casinos, table games, slot games and all types of traditional casino games including roulette. Foreign gambling sites are not legal in Finland. On the other hand Finnish govt does not exercise any censor on people for availing the services provided by such casinos and poker sites.
The existing gambling laws in this country are very hard on gambling operators, but have little or none so ever affect on its resident players. Like many countries from erstwhile USSR, Ukraine also prohibits all types of gambling sites. As individual players are not in the target zone of the gambling agencies, they can opt for availing the services of the operators which are not licensed by the Ukrainian government. As per the latest amendments in their gambling laws, Ukrainian government can prosecute anyone who is involved in any type of online as well as land based gambling. The legal aspect related to placing online bets is not yet clear, but this has not stopped players to place their wagers via foreign gambling sites.
The situation related to gambling in Norway is quite complicated. First of all Norway is not part of the European Union, hence it is not required to adhere to the free trade practices of the latter. Currently the gambling is the monopoly of the state and controlled by two agencies that includes Norsk Riskoto and Norsk Tipping. The first one deals with horse racing while the second one deals with all type of other gambling activities including lotteries. Legislation of 2008 had declared any type of gambling activity using foreign or overseas gambling sites as illegal. If a player wants to follow the gambling rules of this country than gambling through the two government agencies is the only option.
Sweden also had a state monopoly over gambling but due to pressure from EU it is changing now. The main push was in the form of sanctions made by EU which propelled Sweden to allow foreign operators to provide their services to the players of this country. Even today majority of the gambling activities are controlled by the state itself. The only legit gambling site of the Sweden is Svenska Spel, but this does not hinder the players to avail services of other overseas gaming operators. Like many other countries, Sweden too has very strict conditions for the overseas operators. In contrast to it, gambling online by an individual player is not a crime.
Even with a very strong history related to gambling, Italy has very strict rules guiding the online as well as land based gambling. There was time when gambling was totally banned, but at a later stage sports betting had been unshackled as it was considered to be a skill based form of gambling. The major change in Italian gambling laws started in 2006 under the investigation conducted by European Commission. This led to legalization of some other games and opened the market for licensed bookmakers from all of the countries registered under European Free Trade Association. Betting on horse racing was available in Italy long before the recent additions into the gambling laws. This betting was controlled by UNIRE but today punters are opting for other foreign operators for such activities.