European gambling law -

In its efforts to foster something of a level playing field while also allowing pretty much unfettered capitalism and liberal social freedoms for citizenry, European countries in general have become increasingly free-thinking vis-à-vis online gambling.

Of course, along with EU equalizing and liberalizing effects comes complexity. As with US gambling law, even European Union gambling law varies state to state and is subject to the whims of local legislators. Ironically, countries outside the EU generally have more liberal laws on internet gambling though nearly everywhere west of, likesay, Ukraine has loosened the restrictions on would-be individual gamblers online.

Online gambling law in the European Union

European Gambling LawsOnline gambling law in the European Union in the modern sense begins in 2005. Government officials in France had repeated appealed to the European Commission (EC) to make some rulings on internet gambling (or, as referred to at the time, “remote gambling”). By 2007, the EC formally requested changes to French national law so as to allow for more free competition from European providers.

In 2009, the draft bill for La Republique’s standing online gambling law (informally called the French Gambling Law) was introduced into the national parliament and, with just about one month to go before World Cup 2010, the law which would become a blueprint for EU nations was passed into law.

The French Gambling Law called simply for the government’s gambling authority ARJEL and its competition authority to issue licenses to any number of internet gambling providers. In the case of France, three types of gambling are allowed, i.e. licensed by the government and thus given legal purview over: sports betting, poker and horse racing.

Other countries flex this model as called for by local mores: No licenses to online casino gaming is provided in Germany (except for within one province, oddly enough); Spain began the practice in 2014 and in four years has issues 70 licenses; Italy and Greece appear to have few restrictions on casino gaming; and Poland, Hungary and Bulgaria may forever base online casino gaming in a legal grey area.

The Scandinavian countries

Those high-taxing, fiscally-prudent countries of Sweden, Norway, Finland and Denmark have had a firm grip on gambling law since the day when internet casino software was first booted and installed from a CD-ROM. These countries have all had rules for both gaming providers and gamblers since the 1990s and each has licensed dozens of providers of all sorts of gaming to residents.

Poker and the gambling law divide

Check out a World Poker Tour or WSOP event some time, and note the proliferation of non-North American players at the tables. Countries like Sweden, England, Italy, Germany, etc., consistently table players at big-money events, often out of proportion to the national population – and figure that, well, Americans *invented the damn game* -- and Americans *invented the concept of the poker tournament*.     

Yet, thanks to draconian laws on poker in the United States and, by financial extension, Canada, the growth in talent within the North American countries is stunted. Even former bastions of poker rooms such as California and New Jersey have consistently followed the reverse path one would expect after the rise of Moneymaker and have steadily eliminated poker rooms within state borders.

And then there’s Britain

Prior to the infamous Brexit vote of 2016, Britain had installed the world’s most liberal gambling law. The government-overseen “White List” was essentially a mandate that allowed any resident of Britain to play at any gambling website which was based in or approved by play for any European Union member state or protectorate. This made essentially every large- or medium-scale casino game and/or sports betting provider imaginable freely accessible to the British resident.

As this is written, though, the Brexit process is in full gear and British laws such as the White List will no longer be beholden to European standards. In many areas, a financial compromise is sought, so players will have to hope that the greatest gambling culture on Earth stays free.