European regulation round-up: July 2021
In conjunction with Chris Elliott and Rawa Kaftan of Wiggin LLP, iGB provides a regulatory snapshot of igaming across Europe. Finland, Germany, Greece and Spain are among those updated for this edition.
AUSTRIARegulated 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. In February 2021, the Finance Minister of Austria announced a wide-ranging set of proposals to reform gambling in Austria. Proposals include the establishment of a new independent regulator and the introduction of both website blocking and greater player protection measures. A draft law formally setting out the proposed reforms is expected to be published during 2021.
BELGIUMRegulated 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. A mandatory, weekly deposit limit of €500 for all customers of licensed operators is in effect. A draft law to introduce an advertising and sponsorship ban has been submitted to parliament.
BULGARIARegulated 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 to be 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 30 licences to date, including to a number of international operators. The government has adopted amendments to the country’s gambling legislation to establish a monopoly on lotteries in Bulgaria, with any existing lottery licences to be revoked with immediate effect following the amendment’s entry into force.
CROATIARegulated 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: Attempts by the Ministry to update its gambling legislation have been subject to 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.
CYPRUSRegulated gambling products: Sports betting, horse race betting and lottery. Operator type: OPAP has a monopoly over lottery operations; 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 betting law, which entered into force in March 2019, replaced the 2012 Betting Law. The provisions of the 2019 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 betting licence). An overhaul to player protection measures has been proposed by the betting regulator.
CZECH REPUBLICRegulated 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 gambling regulatory regime, which entered into force in the Czech Republic on 1 January 2017, allows EU/EEA companies to enter the market. ISP-blocking measures are active in the jurisdiction. Tax rates reportedly increased to up to 30% of GGR for certain online gambling activities from January 2020.
DENMARKRegulated gambling products: Sports betting, fantasy sports, 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 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 (DGA) has been granted an injunction to block operators and suppliers that have been targeting Danish customers without the requisite licence. As of 1 January 2020, licensed operators are required to ensure that customers have set deposit limits before they are allowed to gamble, although it is understood this applies to online casino only. The DGA introduced new marketing regulations, effective from 1 April 2020. On 1 January 2021, the rate of tax increased from 20% to 28% of GGR for online gambling activities.
ESTONIARegulated 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 online. 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 maintain servers in Estonia was removed.
FINLANDRegulated 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 government is exploring measures to further restrict the offshore supply of gambling services. In January 2021, the government opened a consultation on a number of proposals to reform Finland’s gambling legislation. It had been expected that the finalised proposals would be submitted to parliament by the end of June 2021; however, that did not come to pass and the final proposals are now anticipated to be debated in parliament after summer 2021.
FRANCERegulated 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. A new regulatory authority, L’autorité Nationale des Jeux, took over from ARJEL in June 2020. Responsible gambling advice has been issued to operators and players during the Covid-19 crisis, with a warning against using bonuses to attract new players to poker.
GERMANYRegulated gambling products: Sports betting, horse race betting, virtual slots, online poker and table games. (The German state of Schleswig-Holstein also regulates sports betting, horse race betting, poker, casino and bingo.) Operator type: Horse race betting licences are available at a regional level. Sports betting licences can be applied for by private operators as of 1 January 2020. Since 1 July 2021, private operators have been able to submit licence applications to operate virtual slots and online poker. Online table games (such as roulette, blackjack and live dealer casino) are reserved to land-based casinos, most of which are state operated. (Private operators can no longer obtain casino 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).) 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. Discussions to reform the existing legislation resulted in the approval of the 3rd Amendment Treaty which entered into force on 1 January 2020. The 3rd Amendment Treaty removes the limit on the number of sports betting licences and re-introduces a sports betting licensing process. In July 2021 the 4th Interstate Treaty on Gambling entered into effect which brought new licensing options for private operators for online poker and virtual slots (although stringent restrictions, such as stake limits, shall apply). In October 2020 a transitional toleration regime was introduced which permits operators to offer online poker and slots provided they comply with the toleration regime’s requirements and certain restrictions (such as stake limits); it is anticipated that the toleration regime will remain in place until such time that the virtual slots and online poker market fully launches.
GREAT BRITAINRegulated 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 (GC). Licensed operators are required to source gambling software from GC-licensed businesses. In December 2020, the government launched a “major and wide-ranging” review into the current gambling legislation in Great Britain. It is anticipated that any proposals for reform will be published in a white paper during 2021.
GREECERegulated gambling products: Sports betting, horse race betting and lottery. Operator type: All products are exclusively reserved for the monopoly providers pending the implementation of an open licensing regime, although certain private operators are permitted to operate on a transitional basis. Status: In 2012, a ‘transition period’ commenced, whereby the Greek government granted 24 transitional licences to operators, enabling them to provide services to Greek residents. Legislation, which introduced an open licensing regime for online betting and “other online games”, including casino and poker, entered into force on 30 October 2019. However, the regulations implementing the new legal regime were not published until August 2020. Operators holding a transitional licence may continue to offer services until a decision is made to grant a permanent licence. In July 2021 the regulator announced that the first cycle of the permanent licensing process had come to an end and that it had issued 15 licences under the permanent licensing regime. A decision as to when ‘go-live’ date for the opening of the new regulated market is expected soon.
HUNGARYRegulated 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.
IRELANDRegulated gambling products: Online betting regulated since August 2015. Online gaming is not specifically accounted for in Ireland’s outdated legislation and as such is currently unregulated. Operator type: Private operators can apply for a betting licence. Status: Ireland has contemplated updating its legislation, which will create a comprehensive igaming regime, for some time. The Gambling Control Bill – the legislation which promises to specifically regulate online gambling – has been subject to continued delay and legislative progress is not expected in the short- to medium-term. Interim reform measures intended to modernise the regulation of gambling in Ireland entered into effect on 1 December 2020. In February 2021 draft legislation was published (by an opposition party) which, if passed, would restrict most forms of gambling advertising. According to the Department of Justice’s ‘Justice Plan 2021’, it is expected that in Q3 2021 a General Scheme of legislation to reform the licensing regime for gambling will be published.
ITALYRegulated 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. AGCOM, the Italian communications regulator, has issued sanctions against operators and media companies for violation of the gambling advertising ban (introduced in 2018). Measures to combat unlicensed gambling, including payment blocking measures, entered into effect in October 2019. A tax, which amounts to 0.5% on turnover, was introduced in 2020 on all bets on sporting events (including virtual sports) and is expected to remain in place until 31 December 2021. It is understood that Italian authorities are currently preparing a draft law on a 2023 licensing tender process that will reduce the number of available online licences to 40.
LUXEMBOURGRegulated gambling products: Lottery. Operator type: Monopoly. Status: The general prohibition on gambling appears sufficiently wide to cover all forms of online gambling.
MALTARegulated 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: In 2018, Malta approved a new Gaming Act that replaced all existing gaming legislation with a single piece of legislation, supplemented by secondary legislation. The Gaming Act, with directives and regulations, became effective on 1 August 2018.
NETHERLANDSRegulated gambling products: Sports betting, horse race betting, poker, casino, bingo and lottery. Operator type: Monopoly for all products. Status: The Remote Gambling Act, which introduced a new licensing regime, entered into force on 1 April 2021. Operators may now submit applications for a licence under the new regime. However, operators that have previously directly ‘targeted’ the Dutch market will face a 33-month cooling-off period before being eligible for a licence. While applications have been accepted since April 2021, the market under the new regime is not anticipated to go live until 1 October 2021. In the interim, the regulator is expected to continue to implement enforcement measures against operators targeting Dutch players.
NORWAYRegulated 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 passed amendments to try and stem the flow of gambling supply from offshore, including enhanced enforcement powers to prevent gambling advertising from abroad. Expanded payment blocking provisions entered into effect on 1 January 2020. Draft legislation consolidating Norway’s various gambling laws and further strengthening the regulator’s powers to address unlicensed gambling and the advertisement of the same was submitted to Norwegian parliament for debate and approval in June 2021.
POLANDRegulated 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 on 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 and in February 2021 amendments to such provisions were the subject of parliamentary debate. The blacklist contains more than 1,000 domain names.
PORTUGALRegulated 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 apply for licences, their Portuguese revenue streams are subject to comparatively high tax rates, particularly in sports betting. Portugal’s 2020 Budget will implement changes to the current taxation rates applicable to selected gambling products offered online.
ROMANIARegulated 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. The secondary legislation that fully implemented the current licensing regime came into force on 26 February 2016. The gambling regulator actively polices the regime and notifies ISPs to block blacklisted websites. A legislative proposal to further amend the Gambling Law was submitted to the Romanian Senate in September 2020.
SLOVAKIARegulated gambling products: Sports betting, horse race betting, poker, casino, bingo and lottery. Operator type: Private operators can apply for licences for online casino and for sports betting licences. Lottery and bingo remain reserved for the monopoly provider. Status: The 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 did not take effect until 1 July 2020.
SLOVENIARegulated 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: The requirement that only land-based Slovenian operators are eligible for licences is considered by certain industry stakeholders to be incompatible with EU law. Draft amendments to the Gaming Act were published in 2015, which aimed to remove the current local establishment requirement. However, the proposal does not appear to have been submitted to parliament to date. Whether any proposed amendments will ultimately introduce an open licensing system remains unclear.
SPAINRegulated 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. In November 2020, Spain introduced significant restrictions on gambling advertising, sports sponsorship and welcome bonuses. In July 2021, the Spanish regulator published for consultation a draft royal decree on responsible gambling that proposes the introduction of requirements on players to set spend limits prior to play. It is currently expected that the requirements will enter into force in July 2022.
SWEDENRegulated 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. Temporary regulations, which were introduced on 2 July 2020 in response to the Covid-19 crisis, restrict, among other things, deposit and loss limits (applicable to casino only) and total login time. The measures were initially due to be lifted by the end of 2020 and then by the end of June 2021; however, they will remain in place until at least 14 November 2021. In January 2021, the Swedish government opened a consultation on certain proposals, such as the prohibition of gambling advertising between 6am to 9pm and the introduction of a B2B licensing regime. In June 2021 the Swedish government also opened a further consultation on proposals to subject gambling advertising to similar requirements that are in place with respect to the advertising of alcohol.
Source : igamingbusiness.com