European countries have long been at the forefront of progressive online gambling legislation. Changes in recent years, however, have created a divisive and confusing arena in which companies must operate. GamblingCompliance released a report at the beginning of this year that details some of the issues in play, and the direction in which some countries may be moving.
The report discusses online gaming reviews currently underway in countries like Portugal, Sweden, and Norway. Monopolies in some countries may be forced to open up to competition under European Union laws and court rulings, while nations like the UK and Germany will look to clarify tax laws and licensing requirements in order to better benefit from the ever-growing Internet gambling industry.
Looking at Licensing
The requirement that online gambling operators obtain licenses from regulatory agencies and governmental oversight groups is becoming more common in a growing number of European countries.
The UK is undergoing the biggest change, as its pending Gambling (Licensing and Advertising) Act will require all companies to obtain a license in order to offer services to customers in Britain and Northern Ireland. The bill has undergone numerous changes since its initial proposal, but is close to now being finalized, and implementation is expected to be underway by March 2014. The changes include a 15 percent tax on profits, which has provoked some organizations – such as the Gibraltar Betting and Gaming Association – to consider legal action for going against EU standards and laws. If that happens, it could stall the entire licensing process.
Germany finally plans to issue licenses to online betting companies in 2014, though only 20 will be issued, and more than 40 companies have applied thus far. Many who are not granted licenses already have attorneys ready to file lawsuits to prevent others from using their licenses.
Serbia and Cyprus are also planning to issue online gambling licenses in 2014, though regulatory agencies are still accumulating information in order to set standards and publicize regulations.
Changes in Other Nations
Quite a few countries are currently examining the best and most profitable ways to monitor and regulate the online gambling environment as it pertains to their residents. These include Portugal, Ireland, Switzerland, Bosnia, Hungary, Romania, Lithuania, Sweden, Norway, and the Netherlands. Some of these nations have suggested monopolistic regulatory environments, though, and are finding legal pushback with regard to EU laws.
The European Union as a whole, however, has yet to clarify its own stance on Internet gambling laws, and continues to address the issue per country and situation as they are brought to its attention. But the European Commission has already brought legal action in some form against Belgium, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Lithuania, Poland, and Romania.
Meanwhile, countries that have regulated Internet gaming successfully – France, Spain, and Italy being the most prominent – continue to struggle with the limitations they put on themselves to accept players from only their own countries. Meetings take place regularly between the countries’ regulators to discuss the possibility of liquidity, but France has made it clear that they will not consider it. Sharing player pools is a priority for countries like Spain and Italy, however.
As many of these nations struggle with deficits and the need for revenue, more are considering licensing online gambling. According to GamblingCompliance, the 12 countries with the worst government deficits in 2012 (all more than negative four percent of GDP) are looking into Internet gambling possibilities.