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EU Country Reports for Remote Gambling

Market

The table below summarises the positions taken by Member State governments in response to the rising importance of remote gambling. Generally, policies of increasing liberality are featured in the columns further to the right. Countries are mentioned in more than one column when they display multiple characteristics, but few cross more than 5 ranges of liberality. The following brief descriptions point out some of the policy positions toward remote gambling that have emerged among the Member States.

  • Restrict gambling activity: Austria, Belgium, Luxembourg, Spain
  • Internet gambling prohibited: Greece, Hungary, Lithuania, Luxembourg
  • Protect State/Private Monopolies and revenues: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Greece, Hungary, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Sweden
  • Foreign operators not allowed: Belgium, Denmark, France, Hungary, Netherlands, Italy, Spain
  • Domestic Internet based gambling allowed: Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden
  • Accepts cross border internet gambling: Cyprus, Ireland, Latvia, Malta, UK
  • Liberal approach with licenses offered: Finland, – Aland, Islands, Latvia, Malta, UK

a. Austria

Österreichische Lotterien offers an online lottery and gaming operation to Austrian residents. This grew from €205.27 million [15.9% of sales] in 2002, to €281.4 million [20.9% of sales] in 2003. In addition to the Internet, the Österreichische Lotterien has also been utilising WAP (Wide Area Protocol) phones for the lotto 6/45 and Joker games since January 2001. Casinos Austria set up a website in 2000 and by 2003 had weekly revenues of €3.9 million. iTV gaming is also allowed, with a platform consisting of four games: slots, video poker, blackjack and baccarat.

b. Belgium

The national lottery has an exclusive monopoly right to offer remote games, including lotteries, games of chance and sports bets on line. Overseas and domestic competitors are not permitted to offer such services at present. Belgians spent €27 million on internet gambling in 2003 [GBGC analysis].

c. Cyprus

High tax rates on legal betting have fostered a growing illegal market for sports betting. On the Turkish side of the island, Turkbet has commissioned Chartwell Technology to create an online betting/casino site for them. Currently the government is looking at regulating and licensing remote gambling operators.

d. Czech Republic

SAZKA, the national lottery operator, has an internet site that offers only news and data on sports, including bookmakers’ odds.

e. Denmark

Danish law bans foreign operators from offering either land-based or remote gambling services in Denmark and shows concern about foreign remote operators undermining Danish tax revenues. The Ministry of Taxation, Trade and Justice released a substantial review and recommendations entitled the ‘National Internet Gaming Strategy’ during May 2001. This report dealt with issues on the legality of internet betting sites both within and from outside Denmark and was intended as a basis for further discussions and deliberations of the Future of Gaming in Denmark. A proposal to take measures to block payment of transactions to foreign providers has never been realized. In February 2000, the Klasselotteriet was the first state gaming company to launch its lottery on the Internet. Dansk Tipstjeneste, another lottery company running Denmark’s largest lottery and the ‘Nordic’ lottery, has opened a website and plans to offer WAP services. The Danish government sees the main purpose of its restrictive legislation to be the “need to uphold legitimate interests with regard to public policy and order as well as to limit damaging social consequences such as problem gambling and fraud. A second ground, which is not without relevance, is that betting and lotteries may make a significant contribution to the financing of benevolent or public interest activities such as social and charitable undertakings, sport or culture.” (Written evidence given jointly by Denmark, Finland, Sweden, Norway & Iceland to the Prelegislative Scrutiny Committee for the Draft Gambling Bill in Britain.)

f. Estonia

Eesti Loto launched its online services in December of 2001. Sports betting and a few games are available online via the Olympic Committee site.

g. Finland

Oy Veikkaus, a state owned lottery operator, has an online site offering betting and gaming. WAP phones are also catered for. The online service provided 6% of turnover in 2002 at €56.6 million. In 2003, an iTV gaming channel was offered. In 2003, Fintoto, a company offering horse racing totalisator services, began to offer access via mobile phones and the internet. In a fairly recent development, the Aland Islands, an autonomous part of Finland, now licence remote betting and gaming operations.

h. France

France is not against Internet betting per se and in 2003, its monopoly pool betting provider, Pari-Mutuel-Urbain, launched its own online site and has a well developed iTV facility. The national lottery operator [and 70% state-owned] Français de Jeux offers lottery and sports betting services on the internet to French residents only. Otherwise, online gambling is illegal and the government will seek to prosecute or otherwise prevent overseas remote gambling operators from selling their services in France.

i. Germany

In Germany, each Land is responsible for its own gambling policies, usually through state monopolies. Financial bets are now traded through online betting exchanges, which include Betfair. Few of the state lotteries use the internet, but the casino of Wiesbaden has become the first officially licensed online casino. German online products can be sold to the rest of the world. The Federal government is looking critically at the state monopoly system in the light of the Gambelli decision.

j. Greece

All internet gambling in Greece is banned. The government takes the view that games of chance and betting should remain under state control via a monopoly. It is supposed (According to ARGO’s submission re Gambelli case.) that private operations in Greece would lead to disturbance of the social order, incitement to commit criminal offences and exploitation of consumers.

k. Hungary

Hungarian law provides for a state gambling monopoly. Betting or gaming with foreign operators via telecommunication is banned, as is any intermediary activity. Action has been initiated against Sportingbet, a British licensed company, because it has a Hungarian language website offering betting services.

l. Ireland

The national lottery operator has an online site offering lottery products, games, bingo and keno. Bookmakers in Ireland can offer an internet service. Cross-border telephone and internet betting is permitted.

m. Italy

Policy is mainly concerned with protecting the state monopolies and concessionaires that provide land-based gambling services. The existence of the internet has not really been incorporated into Italian gambling policy. Lottomatica has a state concession to offer online information and lottery games. Some court cases have been pursued concerning overseas firms trying to carve themselves a piece of the highly taxed Italian betting market, most notably the Gambelli case. Strictly speaking, internet gambling is illegal for Italian residents, but the means and the will to enforce this do not exist. Accordingly, off-shore firms offer internet gambling opportunities to Italians and even advertising their services freely.

n. Latvia

The new regulatory regime introduced in 2003 includes licences for remote gambling.

o. Lithuania

There are no internet operations in Lithuania, but lotto is available over the telephone, branded as Telelotto.

p. Luxembourg

The national lottery offers games on the internet, but it is to be played for fun only.

q. Malta

In 2004, Malta joined the EU and offered licences to remote gambling firms for a full range of services in addition to its 200 previously issued licences for internet betting. It is the first EU Member State to offer such all-encompassing regulated licensing facilities. Malta’s licensed firms include Bet 24, Beton Markets, Expekt, Sportwetten-Online, and Unibet. Betfair is currently taking out a licence for an online poker site. Maltese licensed firms are not allowed to sell their services to Maltese residents.

r. The Netherlands

The current legal position is that Holland Casino’s and De Lotto hold exclusive licences to offer internet gambling. Dutch operators have sued foreign online operators for accepting Dutch players – on the grounds that they do not have a Dutch licence. For example, the case De Lotto v. Ladbrokes sought to prevent Ladbrokes accepting Dutch players; the Court at Arnhem found in favour of De Lotto on 31 August 2005. Betfair v. De Lotto is similarly proceeding through legal channels. The Dutch monopolies cannot accept internet bets and Holland Casino’s is taking legal action against other Dutch online companies.

s. Poland

Researchers for this report were not able to find information on remote gambling in Poland.

t. Portugal

According to ARGO, protection is given to state monopolies and national revenues. There is a threat to “social order if money goes to states where the amount of winnings is more attractive.” (According to ARGO’s submission re Gambelli case.) It has since been announced that Portugal is considering the possibility of licensing online gaming, but remote services are intended to be provided only by holders of licences to operate land-based gambling in Portugal and only to residents of Portugal. Exceptions could be introduced by Ministerial order on the basis of international reciprocity.

u. Slovakia

TIPOS, a joint stock company and leading lottery provider, has a licence to offer lottery, bingo, keno and betting services. E-Keno and E-Tipos are available online to Slovak residents only, using Slovak banks for payments. In 2003, the internet generated only 0.02% of sales.

v. Slovenia

Sportna Loterija was the first lottery operator to introduce games for mobile phones. HIT has worked with Boss Media create an online casino, HIT Stardust.

w. Spain

Is an active and profitable remote gambling market, subject to strict state monopoly regulation, mainly by regional governments. Public lotteries make up 18% of the Spanish gambling market. They can sell their approved lottery products through the internet. Internet sites must be registered with the Mercantile Registry, and can offer lotteries, gaming and betting on soccer. The Spanish government is still working out its policy towards internet gambling, is generally against it in principle, yet unsure of what can be done to prevent it. It has not yet developed a clear and reliable position.

x. Sweden

Sweden seeks to prevent private, for-profit gambling, preferring state-organized betting and lotteries. Two enterprises dominate the market: state owned AB Svenska Spel [lotteries, sports betting and gaming machines], and horse racing associations owned by AB Trav och Galopp [horse race betting]. Svenska Spel offers lottery games, bingo and casino gaming on the internet. Furthermore, Svenska Spel was the first national lottery to offer sports betting services online. In 2003, online revenues were €52.6 million (SEK495 million), 4.2% of the total sales. In 2003, a private organisation was licensed to provide internet lottery, keno and scratchcards. In 2004, it was announced that Trisslotten, Sweden’s most popular gambling product, is to be available both on Svenska Spel’s internet site and via mobile telephone. The European Commission is investigating Sweden’s gambling laws, on the issue of whether they are protectionist regarding state revenues. It is not illegal for Swedish gamblers to place bets on operators’ websites, or even for the operators to accept them.

y. United Kingdom

Remote betting by telephone (and more recently over the internet) is the oldest form of legalised remote betting and there are no restrictions on the jurisdictions from which bets can be taken, so that bets can be accepted over the internet by both UK licensed and other suppliers. Consumers can access any remote gambling site. The Gambling Act 2005 allows remote gaming to be fully based in the country for the first time, without restrictions on where the players may be located. Non-British operators will be able to apply for licences. EUbased operators will be able to advertise their services in Britain on the same terms as those holding British licences. Bookmakers [especially William Hill and Ladbrokes] are the biggest internet revenue earners, with betting dominating, but also offering off-shore licensed casino and gaming services. Sportingbet is a specialist internet operator. Betfair dominate the betting exchange market and are expanding overseas. Governmental restrictions on operators’ activities have been imposed by the Competition Commission, which prevented an exclusive deal between BSkyB and Ladbrokes in 2002. The interactive television gambling system operating in the United Kingdom is the most advanced in the world. In 2004, Littlewoods, Sportingbet and William Hill launched their own iTV channels. Poker played on a person-to-person basis will be designated as “equal chance gaming”, but if played against a bank, it becomes a casino game. The UK government position was made clear by Mr Peter Dean, Chairman of the Gaming Board for Great Britain, in 2003. He stated that:

“…The starting-point for the British Government’s policy is that the regulated activity in remote gambling takes place where the operator is located; the reason being that the player, wherever situated, must ‘go to’ the operator’s site to take part in the gambling event, and a bet is not struck until accepted by the operator. This contrasts with the view taken in the USA, for example, which is that the activity takes place where the player is located. Lawyers could argue about this for ever. From a practical point of view it seems more sensible to exercise control over the operator, i.e. the entity accepting the bet, than over the punter, and the British position caters for this.

“Our Government roundly opposes the notion that prohibition of remote gambling is either desirable or practical. As regards practicality, the DCMS position paper comments on the situation in the USA, where despite the apparent illegality of crossborder gambling more of its citizens gamble on-line than those of any other country. As regards desirability, the Government’s approach is unashamedly, even aggressively free-market. So it rejects not only the US prohibitionist approach but also the Gambling Regulators European Forum (GREF) position that gambling offered ‘should be restricted to residents of the jurisdiction concerned and residents of such other jurisdictions with whom there are co-operative or reciprocal arrangements’.

“The British Government’s view is that if other jurisdictions wish to prevent their citizens from gambling with British-based operators then that is of course up to them. There are many mechanisms they might use, including making it an illegal act for players and taking measures to block the use of credit cards for gambling transactions, as the US is doing. But for the gambling operators there will, under British law, be no ‘black list’ of countries from which they are unable to accept customers.

“Despite this uncompromising stance, the British Government remains supportive of international co-operation, acknowledging that there are many issues of common interest to jurisdictions across the world. Furthermore it will retain power to impose geographical restrictions, as it envisages that it might, for example, wish to stop operators accepting bets from countries where all gambling, or perhaps just all remote gambling, is forbidden. It distinguishes this situation from one where another country is seeking to prevent access by its citizens to British operators, but nevertheless permits remote gambling with its own licensed operators. But I should add that the Government has no plans at present to impose such geographical restrictions.” (Dean, P. H., Lockwood, R. C., Penrose, R., Steen, M., Stevens, M., and Kavanagh, T. J. (2003), Report of the Gaming Board for Great Britain 2002-03, Report by Department for Culture, Media and Sport, 9 July.)

© European Union

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