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Gambling regulations in the EU - how do countries differ?

Formed in 1993, the EU is formed of 28 member states across Europe that share a single market - enabling many goods, services, people and money to move freely.

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While the EU promotes a collective set of values across its membership — like human dignity, freedom and democracy — countries in its union have unique laws which reflects their historic, culture and political differences.

Gambling laws vary drastically across countries in the EU. Each country has individual legislation when it comes to both land-based gambling as well as online casinos and betting.

Here are five different countries in the EU that have different gambling regulations.

Italy

Home to one of the oldest land-based casinos in the world, Casino di Venezia, Italy has a long-standing history of gambling. Their laws around online casinos, however, haven't always been so forgiving.

It wasn't until 2010 that use of online casinos was fully legalised in Italy; prior to that point, players could only gamble on two websites managed by national sports and racing organisations.

The regulatory body responsible for issuing and monitoring casino licenses — as well as implementing any changes — is called the Agenzia Delle Dogane e Dei Monopoli (AAMS).

There are more than 160 online gamble portals licensed in Italy by the AAMS. Despite its initial reservations, Italian gambling laws are fairly liberal in comparison to many other European countries.

UK

The UK has some of the freest industry regulations, compared with many countries in the EU, meaning there are a huge number online casinos with a licence. This is due, in large part, to the 2005 Gambling Act that was put into place under Tony Blair's Labour government. This had large implications on the gambling industry; following the act, TV advertising for sport betting became legal, as did online casinos, poker and fixed odds betting terminals. Another consequence of the 2005 Gambling Act was the formation of the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC).

The UKGC is the regulatory body that licenses online operators and ensures they adhere to various conditions, including fair play for its users and protection for those who are under age. The UKGC are responsible for gaming activities such as online poker, sports betting, casino games, bingo and lottery-style games.

Unlike many other countries in the EU, the UK's regulatory framework is clear and straightforward. By licensing trusted casinos, UK regulations work to promote responsible gambling, safeguard those who are vulnerable and under age and prevent criminal activity or money laundering that can be prevalent in the industry.

Germany

Regulations around online gambling are some of the most convoluted and strict in the EU.

The formation of the Interstate Treaty on Gambling in 2008 banned all online casinos and other forms of online betting. Exclusions to this ban were as well as state lotteries and larger land-based casinos.

German citizens are prohibited from access to websites that provide access to slots, blackjack, poker, roulette and betting on sports. Those that do access these websites have no legal recourse should things go awry, making it a risky environment for those who choose to disregard the country's laws.

Poland

Like Germany, Poland has extremely restrictive laws when it comes to the gambling industry. Both land and online-based gambling is regulated in Poland by The Gambling Law. Launched in 2009, The Gambling Law was the Polish government's reaction to the 'gambling affair' — a political scandal involving inappropriate lobbying by casino and slot machine owners.

As a result, The Gambling Law is extremely restrictive. Everything except sports betting is officially barred in Poland. Despite legislation, many Polish citizens play illegally on foreign gambling websites.

France

As a Catholic country, France has historically had restrictive gambling laws. That all changed in 2010 however, after pressure from the EU led to the government passing the Gambling Act, disbanding the government monopoly that previously existed and opening up competition from an array of EU websites.

Interestingly, this does not include games such as roulette, slot machines and table games — which the government believed would be too addictive. Gambling licenses are issued and regulated by the Regulatory Authority for Online Games (ARJEL) and include sports betting, horse race betting and online poker.

While poker websites do have a strong presence in France, The Gambling Act doesn't allow player pools to be shared across borders, meaning its citizens are isolated from the international poker scene.

The future of EU gambling regulations

As the online industry evolves, so too will gambling laws across the EU. In the UK, for example, changes to regulations concerning ID and verification checks have already happened in 2019.

Countries in the EU will continue to adapt their regulations as the revenue for online gaming companies increases. More safeguarding for vulnerable individuals and minors will likely need to be put in place to respond to the prevalence of online casino websites.

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