It would require an encyclopedia to cover all the gambling
laws across all of Europe in full detail. Depending on how you
define “Europe,” the region consists of at least 50 nations.
Each nation has a unique set of gambling laws and some nations
are further divided into smaller regions with their own laws.
Instead of trying to cover every last nation, we’re going to
look at the big picture in Europe. This should give you a pretty
decent look at the overall legal climate for gambling in Europe.
From there, we recommend digging deeper in to the laws of your
We would also like to warn you up front that we’ll be
making a few generalizations about gambling in Europe. Most
countries fall in line with these generalizations, but there are
always exceptions. It’s best to consult a lawyer if you have
any questions about the legality of placing bets or getting
involved in the business of gambling where you live.
The EU itself has addressed some e-gaming issues but
individual member states are mostly free to pursue their own
gambling destinies. It will probably be a long time (if ever)
before we see any sort of blanket EU-wide framework for
Further complicating matters, there are numerous
well-documented instances of the EU conflicting with individual
member nations. In 2013, the EU opened infringement proceedings
against six countries for their anti-competitive gambling laws.
The rules of the EU allow member states to draft their own
gambling laws, but up to the limit free movement of goods and
services within the EU.
Although most European nations have at least addressed
internet gaming, most nations don’t care much about anything the
individual gambler does. If your only goal is to play a few
games or bet on a few matches, you’re most likely not going to
get in trouble. The majority of European nations simply don’t
care what you do as an individual.
What European countries do care about is the business of
gambling. What this means is most nations have a strong stance
on those who run bookmaking or casino operations. If you’re
interested in starting your own online casino or bookmaker, you
most definitely need to consult with an experienced attorney
before you do anything of the sort.
In some countries, the market is open to private enterprise
provided operators qualify for the required licenses. This is
the case in the UK, which has a healthy and robust gambling
industry. Other countries criminalize everything except
Countries that use the state monopoly system tend to have
weak gambling industries and poor options for players. The
monopolies have absolutely zero competition and therefore have
little incentive to innovate or provide customers with anything
other than bare-bones gambling games.
Let’s take a closer look at a few of the bigger markets in
The United Kingdom has the freest gambling industry in all of
Europe. Private operators can obtain licenses and offer all
forms of gambling to people inside the UK.
Up until 2010, Italy blocked all access to online gambling
sites other than two sites managed by national sports and racing
organizations. The EU launched proceedings against Italy in 2003
and seven years later, Italy opened its doors to online
gambling. The government licensing committee (AAMS) is
responsible for granting licenses to operators that show they
can run a safe and stable gambling site.
Germany’s online gambling regulations are a mess right now.
The country bans most forms of online gambling, although at
least one state within Germany started issuing licenses and then
revoked those licenses a year later and started over the
process. It’s a mess on all levels in Germany.
Everything except sports betting is officially banned in
Poland. Since 2011, local companies can apply for a license to
provide online sports betting within Poland. Only a few
companies have actually gone through the process and received
licenses. Despite Poland’s harsh stance on online gambling, it’s a
massive industry there with many citizens playing at foreign gambling sites.
Gambling licenses are granted in France to companies that
wish to offer sports betting, horse betting, and poker. The
licensing process is rigorous, and it doesn’t include casino-style
gaming, but most major poker sites do have a presence in France.
Those Who Live Under Prohibition
Many European countries have at least partial bans on certain
forms of online gambling. The problem is that these bans aren’t
effective. Anyone in Europe can visit any number of foreign
gambling sites to play in real money games. It’s as easy as
running a few searches on Google. In fact, several of our top
gambling sites accept players from most parts of Europe.
We can tell you this much: online gambling is a multi-billion
dollar a year industry in Europe. What we won’t tell you is that
it’s OK to break the law. We don’t know the laws of your home
country so we don’t want to give you bad advice. You need to
read about the laws of the country in which you live so you can
determine if it’s safe to gamble online.
Having said that, most of you are perfectly safe betting
online at any of the major sites mentioned above. Most
governments have no interest in going after people who merely
place bets online.
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