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Wiggin European regulation roundup – June 2020

17 minutes read
In conjunction with Chris Elliott and Beth French of Wiggin LLP, iGB provides a regulatory snapshot of igaming across Europe. Italy, Norway and Sweden are among those updated for this month's edition

In conjunction with Chris Elliott and Beth French of Wiggin LLP, iGB provides a regulatory snapshot of igaming across Europe. Italy, Norway and Sweden are among those updated for this month's edition

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, Casinos Austria, which has exclusive rights until 2027.
Status: The CJEU has held that the Austrian casino monopoly is incompatible with EU law in a number of cases, although national courts continue to reach conflicting decisions on the compatibility of Austria’s current gambling legislative framework with EU law and the position remains unclear.

BELGIUM
Regulated gambling products:
Sports betting, horse race betting, poker, casino, bingo and lottery.
Operator type: All products are available to private operators except for lotteries, which are reserved exclusively for the monopoly provider. However, online operators need to partner with a land-based licence holder in order to satisfy a local establishment requirement; alternatively, apply for one of the retail licences that can be extended to cover online.
Status: There remain valid arguments that the existing regime is incompatible with Belgium’s EU Treaty obligations. Active enforcement measures against operators and players are in place. A mandatory, weekly deposit limit of €500 for all customers of licensed operators is in effect. A draft law to introduce an advertising and sponsorship ban has been submitted to parliament.

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 except for lotteries, which are to be reserved exclusively for the monopoly.
Status: Any operator from an EU/EEA jurisdiction or the Swiss Confederation can apply for a licence. The Bulgarian regulator has awarded approximately 30 licences to date, including to a number of international operators. The government has adopted amendments to the country’s gambling legislation to establish a monopoly on lotteries in Bulgaria, with any existing lottery licences to be revoked with immediate effect following the amendment’s entry into force.

CROATIA
Regulated gambling products:
Sports betting, horse race betting, poker, casino, bingo and lottery.
Operator type: All products are available to private operators except for lotteries, which are reserved exclusively for the monopoly provider. Private operators can only be licensed to offer online gambling if they obtain a land-based casino or betting licence.
Status: Attempts by the Ministry to update its gambling legislation have been subject to criticism in respect of EU incompatibility issues (including the requirement that only holders of land-based licences can offer online gambling). Regulatory reforms appear to have stalled in the country.

CYPRUS
Regulated gambling products:
Sports betting, horse race betting and lottery.
Operator type: OPAP has a monopoly over lottery operations; betting licences are available to private operators.
Status: Cyprus regulated online betting in July 2012, although a licensing regime was not established until 2016. ISPs are obliged to implement blocking measures to prohibit Cypriot residents from accessing unlicensed gambling websites. A new betting law, which entered into force in March 2019, replaces the 2012 Betting Law. The provisions of the new law are substantially the same, with minor amends introduced to address EU incompatibility concerns under the previous law (such as the requirement to have a local branch in order to obtain a betting licence). An overhaul to player protection measures has been proposed by the betting regulator.

CZECH REPUBLIC
Regulated gambling products:
Sports betting, horse race betting, poker, casino, bingo and lottery.
Operator type: EU and EEA-based operators are able to apply for licences.
Status: The new gambling regulatory regime entered into force in the Czech Republic on 1 January 2017, allowing EU/EEA companies to enter the market. ISP-blocking measures are active in the jurisdiction. Tax rates reportedly increased to up to 30% of GGR for certain online gambling activities from January 2020.

DENMARK
Regulated gambling products:
Sports betting, fantasy sports, horse race betting, poker, casino, bingo and lottery.
Operator type: Licences for all gambling products are available to private operators save for lotteries, which are controlled by the state monopoly.
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 (DGA) has been granted an injunction to block operators and suppliers that have been targeting Danish customers without the requisite licence. As of 1 January 2020, licensed operators are required to ensure that customers have set deposit limits before they are allowed to gamble, although it is understood this applies to online casino only. The regulator has introduced new marketing regulations, effective from 1 April 2020.

ESTONIA
Regulated gambling products
: Sports betting, horse race betting, poker, casino, bingo and lottery.
Operator type: Licences for all gambling products are available to private operators save for lotteries, which are reserved exclusively for the monopoly operator.
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 online. A blacklist of 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, no notification alleging incompatibility has been issued by the EC since the requirement for licensees to main servers in Estonia was removed.

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 monopoly provider Veikkaus Oy.
Status: Despite the existence of a national monopoly, EC enforcement action was dropped subsequent to various changes to Finnish laws. Active enforcement measures are in place (restrictive marketing for offshore operators in particular) and the government is exploring measures to further restrict the offshore supply of gambling services. The Finnish Competition and Consumer Authority published a report in 2019 criticising the existing regime, citing failures of the current monopolistic system that arguably raise questions over the regime’s compatibility with EU law. Maximum loss limits have been lowered by government decree until 30 September 2020 (applicable to monopoly provider Veikkaus Oy) in light of the Covid-19 pandemic, with enforcement efforts expected to be stepped up against unlicensed operators to combat increases in offshore play.

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. Ordinance 2019-1015, which was published in the French Official Journal in October 2019, amends the existing gambling legislation and establishes a new regulatory authority, L’autorité Nationale des Jeux, for land-based and online gambling (said to be effective from Spring 2020 but subject to delays). Responsible gambling advice has been issued to operators and players during the Covid-19 crisis, with a warning against using bonuses to attract new players to poker.

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 permit only sports betting and horse race betting.
Operator type: Private operators can no longer obtain casino licences in Schleswig-Holstein under the existing regime, although S-H has approved legislation to reinstate existing licences until 2021 (with operations allowed to continue in the interim). S-H has also introduced a quasi licensing regime for sports betting (intended to be of a transitional nature). In the other 15 states, horse race betting licences are available at a regional level. Sports betting licences can be applied for by private operators as of 1 January 2020, albeit the licensing process has been suspended following a ruling of Administrative Court of Darmstadt in April (currently the subject of appeal).
Status: The main legal framework for gambling regulation in Germany has been the subject of much debate and has been heavily criticised by the EC and interested parties/states within Germany for a number of years. Discussions to reform the existing legislation have resulted in the approval of the 3rd Amendment Treaty which, following ratification on 18 December 2019, entered into force on 1 January 2020. The 3rd Amendment Treaty  removes the limit on the number of sports betting licences and re-introduces a sports betting licensing process. The ban on online casino remains in place, although there is an exception to the prohibition for S-H. An increase in enforcement action is expected now the 3rd Amendment Treaty is in effect. On 12 March 2020, the German prime ministers approved the new Interstate Treaty on Gambling which proposes to  allow private operators to obtain a licence to offer online slots for the first time (although stringent restrictions, such as stake limits, are expected to be implemented). The Treaty, which has been notified to the EC and is scheduled to enter into force from 1 July 2021, still needs to be ratified by state parliaments before becoming law. Enforcement action continues, including a recent interdiction order issued to a payment services provider.

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 (GC). Licensed operators are required to source gambling software from GC-licensed businesses. Licensed operators are prohibited from allowing consumers to use credit cards to gamble (including online and land-based gambling with the exception of non-remote lotteries) as of 14 April 2020. The GC is set to consider the introduction of stake limits online, with a decision to be made by late autumn of this year. Members of the Betting and Gaming Council, a UK trade group, have agreed to stop TV and radio advertising during the coronavirus lockdown.

GREECE
Regulated gambling products:
Sports betting, horse race betting and lottery.
Operator type: All products are exclusively reserved for the monopoly providers pending the implementation of an open licensing regime, although certain private operators are permitted to operate on a transitional basis.
Status: In 2012, a ‘transition period’ commenced, whereby the Greek government granted 24 transitional licences to operators, enabling them to provide services to Greek residents. Legislation, which will introduce an open licensing regime for online betting and “other online games”, including casino and poker, entered into force on 30 October 2019. The new regime was not implemented by 31 March 2020 as was originally envisaged. As a result, the regulator confirmed that transitionally licensed operators could continue to offer their services under “temporary” licences provided such operators had submitted an application for a permanent licence prior to 31 March 2020.

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-Szervezo Kft) and local concession companies can apply for a licence.
Status: Amendments to Hungarian gambling law came into force on 1 October 2015 and allow only two land-based casinos to hold remote casino concessions. The regulator has since issued fines, a number of which have been challenged, against unlicensed operators that continue to target the market. In June 2017, the ECJ determined Hungary’s gambling regime to be incompatible with Article 56 TFEU. A subsequent ECJ decision in February 2018 ruled against the Hungarian requirement that online gambling operators must have a land-based licence to offer online gambling services to Hungarian citizens, further strengthening arguments that the current regime is incompatible with EU law.

IRELAND
Regulated gambling products:
Online betting regulated since August 2015. Online gaming is not specifically accounted for in Ireland’s outdated legislation and as such is currently unregulated.
Operator type: Private operators can apply for a betting licence.
Status: Ireland has contemplated updating its legislation, which will create a comprehensive igaming regime, for some time. The Gambling Control Bill – the legislation which promises to specifically regulate online gambling – has been subject to continued delay and legislative progress is not expected in the short- to medium-term.

ITALY
Regulated gambling products:
Sports betting, horse race betting, poker, casino, bingo and lottery.
Operator type: Fully regulated market, although lotteries are the subject of a state monopoly.
Status: Remote gambling licences are granted within specific application windows. The last tender process for applications closed on 19 March 2018. AGCOM, the Italian communications regulator, recently issued its first sanction against an operator for violation of the advertising ban (introduced in 2018). New measures to combat unlicensed gambling, including payment blocking measures, entered into effect in October 2019. The 2020 Budget Law provides for the organisation of a tender for the issuance of licences by 31 December 2020 – it is understood there will be 40 licences available for online gambling. A new tax, which amounts to 0.5% on turnover, is set to be introduced on all bets on sporting events (including virtual sports) until 31 December 2021.

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 (except for lottery products).
Status: In 2018, Malta has approved a new Gaming Act that replaced all existing gaming legislation with a single piece of legislation, supplemented by secondary legislation. The Gaming Act, with directives and regulations, became effective 1 August 2018.

NETHERLANDS
Regulated gambling products:
Sports betting, horse race betting, poker, casino, bingo and lottery.
Operator type: Monopoly for all products.
Status: The Remote Gambling Bill, intended to introduce a new regime, is expected to enter into force on 1 January 2021, with a six-month window for licence applications. It is understood that operators that have directly ‘targeted’ the Dutch market will face a 30-month cooling-off period before being eligible for a licence. Full implementation of a licensing regime is not expected until 1 July 2021, albeit local experts consider this target increasngly unlikely. In the interim, the regulator is expected to continue to implement enforcement measures against operators targeting Dutch players.

NORWAY
Regulated gambling products:
Sports betting, horse race betting and lottery.
Operator type: Online gambling is reserved for the 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 Norwegian regulator continues to step up enforcement efforts against unregulated operators, local banks and payment service providers. The government has passed amendments to try and stem the flow of gambling supply from offshore, including enhanced enforcement powers to prevent gambling advertising from abroad. Expanded payment blocking provisions entered into effect on 1 January 2020.

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. Online gaming (including poker) is no longer prohibited as of 1 April 2017, although the exclusive rights to offer such products are reserved for a state monopoly. Provisions that provide for the establishment of a blacklist of unlicensed operators and ISP and payment blocking came into force on 1 July 2017. The blacklist contains more than 1,000 domain names. 

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. Although operators can apply for licences, their Portuguese revenue streams are subject to comparatively high tax rates, particularly in sports betting. Portugal’s 2020 Budget will implement changes to the current taxation rates applicable to selected gambling products offered online. The Portuguese government has instituted legislation that imposes a partial or total ban on online gambling for the duration of the Covid-19 pandemic. The legislation does not state the specifics on the limitations, but it is understood that it will apply to online casino only (if implemented).

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 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 that fully implemented the new licensing regime came into force on 26 February 2016. The gambling regulator actively polices the regime and notifies ISPs to block blacklisted websites.

SLOVAKIA
Regulated gambling products:
Sports betting, horse race betting, poker, casino, bingo and lottery.
Operator type: Private operators can apply for licences for online casino as of 1 March 2019 and for sports betting licences from 1 July 2019. Lottery and bingo remain reserved for the monopoly provider.
Status: A new Gambling Law came into force on 1 March 2019. The Gambling Law allows private operators outside of Slovakia to apply for licences for sports betting and casino, although sports betting licences will not be operational until at least July 2020.

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 requirement that only land-based Slovenian operators are eligible for licences is considered by certain industry stakeholders to be incompatible with EU law. Draft amendments to the Gaming Act were published in 2015, which aimed to remove the current local establishment requirement. However, the proposal does not appear to have been submitted to parliament to date.. Whether any proposed amendments will ultimately introduce an open licensing system remains unclear.

SPAIN
Regulated gambling products:
Sports betting, horse race betting, poker, casino, bingo and lottery.
Operator type: Private operators can apply for licences for all gambling products save for lottery.
Status: Operators must hold a general licence and a specific licence, both issued by the National Gambling Commission, for each activity. Remote gambling licences are granted within specific application windows. The last tender process for applications closed on 18 December 2018. In April 2020, Spain’s government introduced restrictive measures on the offer of bonuses and advertising gambling for the duration of the country’s lockdown during the Covid-19 crisis. 

SWEDEN
Regulated gambling products:
Betting (including sports, horse race, pool, exchanges), casino, poker, bingo and lottery.
Operator type: Licences are available for private operators.
Status: As of 1 January 2019, Sweden is a fully regulated market. All gambling operators that wish to offer their services to Swedish residents will be required to obtain a licence in order to validly do so (either a ‘betting’ licence or a ‘commercial online games’ licence, depending on the product(s) being offered). Active enforcement measures are in place. Proposed regulation, which is set to be introduced on 2 July 2020 in response to the Covid-19 crisis, will introduce restrictions on, among other things, deposit and loss limits (applicable to casino only) and total login time. The measures are expected to be in place until the end of 2020.

Wiggin is a law firm dedicated to supporting the media, entertainment and gaming sectors. Its market-leading betting and gaming group provides specialist legal services to an array of gambling industry stakeholders. We advise many of the world’s leading gambling operators and suppliers and also enjoy helping entrepreneurial, interactive start-up businesses. If you’d like to hear more, contact us at [email protected].

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