Wiggin EU regulation roundup – June 2017

| By Stephen Carter
Chris Elliott and Beth French provide a roundup of EU igaming markets. Czech Republic, Denmark, Great Britain and the Netherlands are among those updated this month.
EGBA supports calls for reformation of EU Expert group on Gambling

Chris Elliott and Beth French of law firm Wiggin provide a roundup of igaming markets across the EU, including all regulated products, legalised operator types and any impending market updates. Czech Republic, Denmark, Great Britain and the Netherlands are among those updated this month.

AUSTRIA
Regulated Gambling Products: Sports betting, horse race betting, poker, casino, bingo and lottery.
Operator Type: Licences for sports betting and horse race betting are available for private operators on a regional basis within Austria whereas poker, casino, bingo and lottery are controlled by the monopoly, Austria Lotteries.

Status: An appeal challenging Austrian tax legislation is seen as a test case by other offshore operators targeting Austrian business. In 2016 court decisions reached conflicting decisions on the compatibility of Austria’s current gambling legislative framework with EU law, which remains unclear. The Austrian government put forward a proposal to block unlicensed offshore operators targeting the country, although next steps are unclear.

BELGIUM
Regulated Gambling Products: Sports betting, horse race betting, poker, casino, bingo and lottery.
Operator Type: All products are available to private operators save for lotteries, which are reserved exclusively for the monopoly provider. However, online operators need to partner up with local casinos in order to satisfy the land-based establishment requirement; or alternatively, apply for one of the 34 retail licences (F1 licences) which can be extended to cover online (F1+ licence).

Status: The potential for EC infringement proceedings remains. The introduction of VAT at 21% of GGR for online games of chance in 2016 may also be subject to legal challenge. Active enforcement measures against operators and players are in place.

BULGARIA
Regulated Gambling Products: Sports betting, horse race betting, poker, casino, bingo and lottery (excluding raffles and instant lottery games).
Operator Type: All products are available to private operators save for lotteries, which are reserved exclusively for the monopoly provider.

Status: Any operator from an EU/EEA jurisdiction or the Swiss Confederation can apply for a licence. The Bulgarian regulator has awarded approximately 20 licences to date, including to several international operators. The change from a turnover to a GGR tax-based system has prompted a number of operators to apply for a local licence.

CROATIA
Regulated Gambling Products: Sports betting, horse race betting, poker, casino, bingo and lottery.
Operator Type: All products are available to private operators save for lotteries, reserved exclusively for the monopoly provider. Private operators can only be licensed to offer igaming if they obtain a land-based casino or betting licence.

Status: Following Croatia’s accession to the EU in July 2013, it was understood it would submit new legislation which was compatible with European law. However, on 5 March 2014 the Croatian government notified a draft bill which seeks to embolden the position of the monopoly and local operators. The receipt of a Detailed Opinion from the EC stalled the legislative process.

CYPRUS
Regulated Gambling Products: Sports betting, horse race betting and lottery.
Operator Type: OPAP has a monopoly over lottery operations; sports betting licences are available to private operators.

Status: Cyprus regulated online betting in July 2012, although a licensing regime was not established until 2016. Applications for online sports betting licences were accepted for a one-month period only from 3 October to 3 November 2016. Following the closure of the licensing window, the government announced they would implement blocking measures with the publication of a blacklist, and warned local ISP providers that it would face fines for failures to block sites offering unlicensed gambling products. The first sports betting licence was granted in January 2017.

CZECH REPUBLIC
Regulated Gambling Products: Sports betting, horse race betting, poker, casino, bingo and lottery.
Operator Type: EEU and EEA-based operators are able to apply for licences.

Status: Amendments to Czech Republic’s gambling legislation became effective on 1 January 2017, and allow EU/EEA companies to apply for online licences. The first licence was granted on 28 January 2017. The licensing regime has recently been called in question after at least one operator announced it will no longer pursue a licence, citing the current regime as incompatible with EU law. No transitional/grace period for licence applicants while awaiting full licensure.

DENMARK
Regulated Gambling Products: Sports betting, fantasy sports, horse race betting, poker, casino, bingo and lottery.
Operator Type: Sports betting, poker and casino licences are available to private operators. Bingo, lottery and horse race betting (fixed odds only) are controlled by the state monopoly. Bingo and horse race betting to be available to private operators from 1 January 2018.

Status: The Danish online gambling regime went live on 1 January 2012. ISP-blocking measures are active in the jurisdiction and the Danish Gaming Authority has been granted an injunction in order to block operators and suppliers that have been targeting Danish customers without the requisite licence. Following a government announcement earlier this year, Denmark has passed amendments to the country's gambling legislation which will open up online bingo and horse race betting markets to private operators. The amendments are expected to enter into force on 1 January 2018.

ESTONIA
Regulated Gambling Products: Sports betting, horse race betting, poker, casino, bingo and lottery.
Operator Type: Licences for all gambling products are available for private operators save that the monopoly has exclusive rights to lottery.

Status: Operators seeking to accept business from players in Estonia must be issued an activity licence for the type of gambling they wish to offer, then an operating permit to provide the services remotely. A blacklist of around 1,100 operators is maintained and updated by local authorities and ISP and payment blocking is in force. Though some operators argue that the regime is still not compatible with EU law, there has been no criticism or open challenge by the EC to date.

FINLAND
Regulated Gambling Products:
Sports betting, horse race betting, poker, casino, bingo and lottery.
Operator Type: All gambling products are under the exclusive control of the three monopoly providers, Raha-automaatiyhdistys (“RAY”), Fintoto Oy and Veikkaus Oy. The monopolies merged into one state entity as of 1 January 2017.

Status: An ECJ ruling confirmed that Finland’s three monopoly providers are legally permitted, which was subsequently written into law. In November 2013, the EC also withdrew infringement proceedings. Active enforcement measures are in place (restrictive marketing for offshore operators and ISP blocking).

FRANCE
Regulated Gambling Products: Sports betting, horse race betting, poker, bingo and lottery.
Operator Type: Private operators can obtain online licences for sports betting, horse race betting and poker. The monopoly has exclusive rights to bingo and lottery.

Status: A regulated market since the introduction of a licensing regime in 2010, following which the EC withdrew its infringement proceedings. Parliament announced a full review of French gambling legislation in 2016, although little progress has been made to date except for changes to allow for international poker liquidity and provisions relating to the organisation of esports tournaments. The French regulator is understood to have renewed calls for tax reforms recently amid concern of continued growth in illegal offerings in the country.

GERMANY
Regulated Gambling Products: Schleswig-Holstein, a small Northern German state, regulates sports betting, horse race betting, poker, casino and bingo. The other 15 states of Germany currently only permit sports betting and horse race betting.
Operator Type: Private operators can no longer obtain licences in Schleswig-Holstein, and those in existence will expire on 30 June 2019. In the other 15 states, horse race betting licences are available at a regional level but the position surrounding the 20 available sports betting licences is still uncertain.

Status: The licensing regime in Germany is in a state of flux. The tender for 20 Federal sports betting licences was abortive, following a number of appeals by operators who were not granted a licence. The CJEU ruled in 2016 that Germany’s sports betting regulation is incompatible with EU law and that enforcement actions will be unlawful where none of the 20 licences could, in practice, be acquired. The decision led to calls for comprehensive legal reform of Germany’s gambling legislation. In March 2017, all 16 German states signed amendments to the country’s gambling law which will allow for an unlimited number of sports betting licences, although the ban on online casinos will be upheld. The decision to only make minimal amendments has drawn widespread criticism, particularly from the EC and more recently, from political parties in Schleswig-Holstein. Amendments are scheduled to enter into force on 1 January 2018.

GREAT BRITAIN
Regulated Gambling Products: Sports betting, horse race betting, poker, casino, bingo and lottery.
Operator Type: All licences are available to private operators save for lottery, which is reserved exclusively
for the monopoly provider, Camelot.

Status: Any operator that transacts with, or advertises to, British residents requires a licence from the Gambling Commission. Licensed operators are required to source gambling software from Commission-licensed businesses. A corresponding tax rate of 15% of gross profits was introduced on 1 December 2014. A Gibraltar trade association challenged the taxation regime by arguing that it infringed EU law, but the CJEU ruled in June 2017 that Gibraltar and the UK should, for the provision of services, be considered a single member state as a matter of EU law. On 5 December 2016, the UK government announced that the first use of free-plays for remote gaming will be taxed and winnings will be brought into the duty calculation at the end of the rewagering process. The changes are set to be included in the Finance Bill 2017 and are due to take effect on 1 August 2017.

GREECE
Regulated Gambling Products: Sports betting, horse race betting and lottery.
Operator Type: All products are exclusively reserved for the monopoly providers although 24 transitional licences for private operators remain active, with all products permitted.

Status: The enabling regulations that implement a Greek online gambling licensing regime are yet to be implemented. In 2012, a “transition period” commenced whereby the Greek government granted 24 transitional licences to operators, enabling them to keep transacting with Greek residents. The fate of the 24 licences is still unclear, although a continued delay to the implementation of the legislation has led to the EC sending a letter of enquiry to the Greek authorities at the beginning of 2017 to question the lack of development in the remote gambling sector.

HUNGARY
Regulated Gambling Products: Sports betting, horse race betting, poker, casino, bingo and lottery.
Operator Type: Only the state monopolies (Szerencsejáték Zrt. and Magyar Lóversenyfogadást-SzervezőKft) and local concession companies can apply for a licence.

Status: Amendments to Hungarian gambling law came into force on 1 October 2015 which allow only two land-based casinos to hold remote casino concessions. The regulator has since issued fines against unlicensed operators who continue to target the market. a number of which have been challenged by operators and are subject to an ongoing judicial review. ISP blocking of unlicensed sites has occurred since June 2014. The potential for EC infringement proceedings remains.

IRELAND
Regulated Gambling Products: Online gaming is not specifically accounted for in Ireland’s outdated legislation and as such is currently unregulated. Online betting has been regulated since August 2015.

Status: Updating its legislation, which will create a comprehensive igaming regime and payment restrictions. More substantive developments are expected in 2017. The Betting (Amendment) Act 2015 now requires remote bookmakers to hold a licence, and pay a 1% turnover-based duty.

ITALY
Regulated Gambling Products: Sports betting, horse race betting, poker, casino, bingo and lottery.
Operator Type: All products available to private operators save for lottery, which is reserved for the monopoly provider. However, it is currently not possible to obtain a licence in Italy.

Status: Fully regulated market. A recently passed Stability Law introduces various measures affecting the remote gambling industry, including tax changes and plans for tighter advertising rules. The law will provide for the award of 120 new online gaming licences (lasting for six years). The tender process for the award of the licences has been delayed since mid-2016.

LUXEMBOURG

Regulated Gambling Products: Lottery.
Operator Type: Monopoly.

Status: The general prohibition on gambling appears sufficiently wide to cover all forms of online gambling.

MALTA
Regulated Gambling Products: Sports betting, horse race betting, poker, casino, bingo and lottery.
Operator Type: Private operators can apply for a local licence (save for lottery products).

Status: Malta recently introduced the Skill Games Regulations 2016, which established a regulatory framework for skill games for prizes. The new legislation forms part of Malta’s plans to modernise online gambling rules, with further amendments to Malta’s gambling laws expected throughout the course of 2017.

NETHERLANDS
Regulated Gambling Products: Sports betting, horse race betting, poker, casino, bingo and lottery.
Operator Type: Monopoly for all products.

Status: The Dutch Lower House approved the Online Gambling Bill In mid-2016, which will introduce an online gambling licensing regime in the Netherlands. The legislation will impose a 29% GGR tax on both online and land-based operators. The Bill still requires approval from the Senate and licensing is not expected to commence until at least 2019. In the interim, the regulator continues to implement enforcement measures against those operators targeting Dutch players and has announced a change to its enforcement policy so as to broaden the scope of its “prioritisation criteria”.

NORWAY
Regulated Gambling Products: Sports betting, horse race betting and lottery.
Operator Type: Online gambling is reserved for its two monopoly providers: Norsk Tipping and Norsk Rikstoto.

Status: The monopoly has extended its offering to include live betting, online bingo and casino games in an attempt to redirect traffic from unlicensed sites. The government published a long-awaited white paper on how best to regulate the gambling sector in March 2017 which proposes that the gambling monopoly remain in place and no licensing system be introduced. The Norwegian regulator continues to step up enforcement efforts against unregulated operators, local banks and payment service providers.

POLAND
Regulated Gambling Products: Sports betting, horse race betting, casino and poker.
Operator Type: Betting licences are available for companies with a representative in Poland. Casino and poker are reserved for a state monopoly.

Status: Legislation enacted 1 January 2012 permits betting and there are currently only five licensed operators in Poland (Fortuna, Milenium, STS, E-Toto and Totolotek). Following the approval of various amendments to the Gambling Act in December 2016, online gaming (including poker) is no longer prohibited as of 1 April 2017, although the exclusive rights to offer such products are reserved to a state monopoly. Provisions that provide for the establishment of a blacklist of unlicensed operators and the introduction of ISP and payment blocking are due to enter into force on 1 July 2017.

PORTUGAL
Regulated Gambling Products: Sports betting, horse race betting, poker, casino, bingo and lottery.
Operator Type: Any EU/EEA operator can apply to be granted a licence for online gambling. Lottery games and land-based fixed odds sports betting remain reserved for a monopoly.
Status: A regulated market since 2015. While operators can now apply for licences, their Portuguese revenue streams will be subject to comparatively high tax rates, particularly sports betting, subject to an 8-16% tax on turnover. In 2015, the RGA filed a state aid case with the EC challenging the Portuguese betting tax as breaking EU trade rules. Delayed technical standards were introduced in December 2016, paving the way for operators to certify their online systems to obtain a licence. The regulator is known to have granted six licences.

ROMANIA
Regulated Gambling Products: Sports betting, horse race betting, casino, bingo and lottery.
Operator Type: Any operator from an EU/EEA jurisdiction or the Swiss Confederation can apply for a licence. Lottery games remain reserved for the monopoly.

Status: The Romanian government passed legislation at the end of 2014 that allows entities within the EU to apply for a licence, imposes a reform on licence fees and eliminates many (but not all) of the tax burdens placed on player revenues. The Gambling Law (as amended) introduced a legal framework for a fully regulated online gambling market, and requires licences to be held by online gambling operators, as well as software providers, payment processors, affiliates and testing labs. After some delay, the secondary legislation which fully implemented the new licensing regime came into force on 26 February 2016. The National Office for Gambling in Romania published a blacklist of unlicensed gambling operators in July 2015.

SLOVAKIA 
Regulated Gambling Products: Sports betting, horse race betting, poker, casino, bingo and lottery.
Operator Type: All products are operated by the monopoly save that land-based sports betting operators can offer services online due to
a legal loophole.

Status: In November 2016, a bill amending the existing gambling legal framework was approved. The amendments, which entered
into force on 1 January 2017, include the introduction of ISP and payment blocking of illegal online gambling offerings in the Slovak territory. The supervisory function in respect of ISP and payment blocking measures will not be active until July 2017. Whether amendments will also be made to introduce a formal licensing system remains unclear.

SLOVENIA
Regulated Gambling Products: Sports betting, horse race betting, poker, casino, bingo and lottery.
Operator Type: Online gambling must be operated by land-based casinos or lotteries and, as a result, only the monopoly holds online
licences in Slovenia.

Status: The Finance Ministry notified secondary regulations for the operation of online gambling services to the EC on 17 August 2016. The proposals would remove the cap on the number of licences and the requirement for a local establishment, although sports betting would remain as a monopoly.

SPAIN
Regulated Gambling Products: Sports betting, horse race betting, casino, poker, bingo and lottery.
Operator Type: Private operators can apply for licences for all gambling products save for lottery.

Status: The first online licences were issued on 1 June 2012. Under the law, operators must hold a general licence and a specific licence for each activity from the National Gambling Commission. In June 2015, 10 new licences were awarded, the first since the market opened in 2012. Also 25 online slot permits were issued to new and existing operators. This followed the approval of the regulation of slots and betting exchanges. There is speculation on the possible opening of a tender for licences later in 2017.

SWEDEN
Regulated Gambling Products: Sports betting, horse race betting, poker, bingo and lottery.
Operator Type: Only public benefit organisations, the horse racing industry and the state lottery may obtain a licence. No licences are available for private operators.

Status: The Swedish government is under pressure to update its regulations following the commencement of infringement proceedings by the EC. On 31 March 2017, the government published its long-awaited report on the re-regulation of the online gambling market, which includes a proposal to introduce a licensing regime which will allow private operators to obtain a local licence. The report is seen to be a key driver behind draft legislation to be published later this year, with a licensing regime not likely to emerge before 2019. In the interim, a bill that sets out to strengthen the position of gambling monopolies has been submitted to parliament.

Wiggin is a law firm dedicated to supporting the media, entertainment and gaming sectors. Its Betting and Gaming group provides specialist legal services to an array of gambling industry stakeholders.

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