Gambling Laws and Regulation in Europe
Although Europe is very much considered a “single state” in terms of economic significance, and is to some extent governed by legislation passed by the European Union, the individual countries are still ultimately responsible for passing their own laws. This is particularly true within the gambling industry since there’s no legislation or regulation that standardizes betting and gaming throughout Europe.
As a result, keeping up with the legalities of gambling, particularly online gambling, throughout the continent is quite a challenge. The European market is serviced by many of the leading gambling sites, but what’s allowed and what’s not can differ quite significantly from one country to another.
On this page, we have briefly summarized the relevant legislation and regulation that’s in place in a number of European countries. We have also listed the online gambling jurisdictions that are within Europe, and provided some information on the European Gaming and Betting Association. Although we update this page to reflect any changes when necessary, we do advise that you check your local laws yourself if you have concerns about what is and is not legal.
If you live in Europe and you are looking for somewhere to gamble online, then we would suggest checking out our list of recommended sites.
Online Gambling Jurisdictions In Europe
There are several online gambling jurisdictions located in Europe. Some of these are members of the European Union (EU), and thus subject to the various rules and regulations of that body, while others are independent. Each of these jurisdictions have an authority that’s responsible for approving gambling sites for licenses which enable them to offer their services legally. They also regulate their licensees.
Europe is home to the following online gambling jurisdictions.
Read more about online gambling jurisdictions here.
European Gaming & Betting Association
The European Gaming and Betting Association (EGBA) is an organization set up to try and implement a fair, competitive, and regulated market for online gambling operators wishing to provide their services in Europe. It was created in 2007, originally as the European Betting Association and is based in Brussels.
Although it’s far from achieving its ultimate goals, the EGBA has had some notable achievements in its time. It currently only has a few member companies, but as legislation and regulation becomes a bigger issue for all gambling operators, it may well expand. In turn, this should give the organization more influence.
Many forms of gambling are legal in France, and there are three main bodies responsible for its regulation. The Pari Mutuel Urbain deals with horse racing, the Francaise des Jeux deals with betting games and lotteries, and ARJEL deals with online gambling.
In 2009, the French government introduced a new legislative bill relating to online gambling, following requests from the European Union, and in 2010 three forms of online gambling were officially legalized. They were sports betting (including live betting, fixed odds betting, and pool betting), horse racing betting (pool betting only) and poker.
Licenses are issued by ARJEL to operators wishing to provide these services to French residents. At this time licenses aren’t issued for casino games, spread betting, or exchange betting.
The gambling laws in Germany are somewhat complex, and have changed a few times over the years. In 2008 legislation was introduced that effectively banned all forms of online gaming and betting, with the exception of horse racing betting, other than those offered by the state. EBGA led a challenge to this legislation, claiming that it breached EU rules.
In 2010, it was ruled by the European Court of Justice that the industry was monopolized in Germany and had to become more liberal. As a result the Interstate Treat on Gambling (ISTG) was introduced in 2012 which allowed private companies to provide some gambling services. The ISTG was implemented in all German states but one, Schleswig Holstein, which passed its own legislation which was even more liberal.
This legislation was scrapped in 2013, by a newly elected government, but the licenses previously issued by Schleswig Holstein still have several years to run (until 2018). Many established operators hold one of these licenses as Germany is one of Europe’s biggest gambling markets. Questions still remain over whether the ISTG has done enough to prevent the monopoly on internet gambling in Germany. There may be a need for more changes in the future.
Spain has amended its gambling laws several times in recent years. The most recent changes took effect in 2012, when operators could apply for licenses to operate in the region subject to certain conditions. Several companies were successfully awarded licenses by the Spanish National Gaming Commission and were able to operate accordingly.
At this time, it’s legal for Spanish residents to bet and play at any of the sites licensed in the country. Many of the biggest and best known brands, such as Bet365 and William Hill, have dedicated Spanish sites for betting, poker, and some other forms of gambling.
Compared to many other European countries, the gambling laws in Italy are fairly liberal. In 2006, at a time when many other European Union members were introducing or increasing restrictions on gambling, Italy introduced legislation allowing companies to provide sports betting services in retail locations and over the internet.
Several changes were made to this legislation, including one in 2011 which allowed licensees to provide poker and casino games to customers too. As a result, Italians have a wide choice of licensed sites they can join for several different forms of gambling.