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Winning in a game of chance in European Union

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Even if not all Member States have a legal definition of the concepts of “Games of Chance” and “Gambling”, in most European countries (Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland (under the generic term of lottery), Germany (although controversial), Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Latvia, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia), a game of chance is defined as a game that offers an opportunity to compete for prizes, where success depends completely or predominantly on coincidence or an unknown future event and cannot be influenced by the player. One of the players at least loses his or her stake.

The first important element characterizing a game of chance is that of stake money. The second essential characteristic of a game of chance is the element of chance. Success or loss must depend completely or predominantly on coincidence and not on abilities and knowledge. Success is considered to depend in any case on coincidence, if the relevant aspect is the occurrence of an uncertain event.

In the Czech Republic, the probability of winning (a lottery or a tombola) may not be less than 1 : 200.

In general, the nature of the prize is of no legal importance (this is true in Belgium, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, France, Hungary, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom). Some legislators nevertheless make a distinction: the prize can take the form of money (in Austria and Finland) or of money or monetary value (in Malta), or of an additional chance to win (in Austria, Finland and Portugal, but not in Belgium or Estonia) or be offered by a third party (in Austria).

In general, the conditions of the game are specified by the operator in advance (Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Estonia, France, Germany (subject to certain particularities as regards machine gaming), Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Slovenia and Spain).

Some countries exclude certain games from the scope of their gambling laws, such as sports betting (in Luxembourg), card games outside casinos (in Belgium), games played at fairs that offer low prizes (in Belgium), commercial contests (in Finland, France, Luxembourg and Sweden), or free commercial contests (in Luxembourg and the United Kingdom (Great Britain)). In Estonia, gaming by means of a machine is not deemed to constitute gambling for the purposes of the gambling law, if the only chance of winning is a free game to be played by means of the same machine. The same applies in Latvia; automatic games with non-pecuniary prizes are also excluded from gambling law.

Certain Member States (the Netherlands, Germany, Portugal and the United Kingdom) also exclude from the scope of their gambling laws, as a matter of principle, all life insurances, certain public loan regimes and non-commercial games of chance that are not open to the public.

Credit © European Union

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