Wiggin European regulation round-up: May 2022

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In conjunction with Chris Elliott and Rawa Kaftan of Wiggin LLP, iGB provides a regulatory snapshot of igaming across Europe. Belgium, France, Germany, Ireland and Norway are among those updated for this 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 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. In June 2021, the Austrian Supreme Court held in favour of a player who brought a claim against an operator licensed elsewhere in the EU for a refund of losses on the basis that their contract with the operator was invalid. In February 2021, a wide-ranging set of proposals to reform gambling in Austria was announced. Proposals include the establishment of a new independent regulator and the introduction of both website blocking and greater player protection measures. A draft law formally setting out the proposed reforms had been expected to be published during 2021 but this did not happen, although comments made by the Austrian Finance Minister in December 2021 suggest that preparatory work remains ongoing.

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 for the monopoly provider. Online operators need to partner with a land-based licence holder in order to satisfy a local establishment requirement – or apply for a retail licence 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 although a draft Royal Decree adopted in July 2021 will reduce the limit to €200 once it enters into effect. In May 2022, Belgium submitted a draft Royal Decree to the European Commission that aims to introduce greater restrictions on gambling advertising and sponsorship in the country.

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 reserved 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 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). In July 2021 the local regulator introduced new rules and restrictions on gambling advertising.

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 DGA introduced new marketing regulations, effective from 1 April 2020. In August 2021 the self-regulatory Gambling Advertising Board was established.

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 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). In January 2022, amendments to Finland’s gambling law entered into force which grant the Police Board new powers to take administrative action against private operators that target the Finnish market. Provisions concerning payment blocking measures are scheduled to enter into force on 1 January 2023.

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. A new regulatory authority, L’Autorité Nationale des Jeux, took over from ARJEL in June 2020. In March 2022, ANJ was granted administrative powers to block illegal gambling websites.

GERMANY
Regulated gambling products: Sports betting, horse race betting, virtual slots, online poker and table games.
Operator type: 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. Since 1 July 2021, private operators have been able to submit licence applications to operate virtual slots and online poker. Online table games (such as roulette, blackjack and live dealer casino) are reserved to land-based casinos, most of which are state operated although in August 2021 the states of Schleswig-Holstein and North Rhine-Westphalia have passed laws to open a licensing system to private operators to offer online table games in their respective states. In February 2022 the new pan-German gambling regulator – the Joint Gambling Authority of the States – launched its website. The regulator is due to formally commence operations in January 2023 (although it will assume certain responsibilities in July 2022).
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 resulted in the approval of the 3rd Amendment Treaty which entered into force on 1 January 2020. This removed the limit on the number of sports betting licences and reintroduced a sports betting licensing process. The ban on online casino remains in place, although there is an exception to the prohibition for S-H. In March 2020, the German prime ministers approved the new Interstate Treaty on Gambling which brings new licensing options for private operators for online poker and virtual slots (although stringent restrictions, such as stake limits, shall apply). In October 2020 a transitional toleration regime was introduced which permits operators to offer online poker and slots provided they comply with the toleration regime’s requirements and certain restrictions (such as stake limits); it is anticipated that the toleration regime will remain in place until such time that the virtual slots and online poker market fully launches. According to the May 2022 version of the ‘White List’ maintained by authorities in Saxony-Anhalt, the first online slots licence has now been granted.

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, until 2024.
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. Last December, the government launched a “wide-ranging” review into the current gambling legislation in Great Britain. It is anticipated that any proposals for reform will be published in a white paper that is expected in the short term.

GREECE            
Regulated gambling products:  Sports betting, horse race betting, poker, casino, bingo and lottery.
Operator type: Under the permanent licensing regime, two types of licences are available to private operators: (i) Type 1 for online betting; and (ii) Type 2 for other online games (which includes poker and casino games). However, certain entities which were previously state-owned have the exclusive right to offer bingo, lottery and pari-mutuel betting or fixed-odds betting on horse racing.
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 introduced an open licensing regime for online betting and “other online games”, including casino and poker, entered into force in 2019. However, the regulations implementing the new legal regime were not published until August 2020 and it wasn’t until July 2021 that the permanent licensed market launched.
UPDATE: Since Wiggin provided this round-up, Greece has raised the RNG stake limit to €20 from €2 and maximum winnings from €70,000 to €140,000, and also reduced the required time between “game rounds” including slot spins from three seconds to two.

HUNGARY        
Regulated gambling products: Sports betting, horse race betting, poker, casino, bingo and lottery.
Operator type: Only the state monopolies 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. However, in February 2022 Hungary notified the European Commission of two draft bills, one of which seeks to liberalise the local sports betting market by affording operators within the EEA the opportunity to apply for a local licence.

IRELAND           
Regulated gambling products: Online betting has been regulated since 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. Interim reform measures intended to modernise the regulation of gambling in Ireland entered into effect on 1 December 2020. Draft legislation published in April 2021 (by an opposition party) which, if passed, would restrict most forms of gambling advertising, progressed to committee stage in March 2022. In October 2021, the General Scheme of the Gambling Regulation Bill was published which covers, among other things, the planned introduction of a B2C and B2B licensing regime and the establishment of the Gambling Authority of Ireland. Pre-legislative scrutiny of the General Scheme commenced in March 2022.

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, has issued sanctions against operators and media companies for violation of the gambling advertising ban (introduced in 2018). Measures to combat unlicensed gambling, including payment blocking measures, entered into effect in October 2019. It is understood that Italian authorities are currently preparing a draft law on a 2023 licensing tender process that will reduce the number of available online licences to 40.

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 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 on 1 August 2018.

NETHERLANDS              
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: The Remote Gambling Act, which entered into force on 1 April 2021, set the framework for the Dutch licensing regime and market which opened on 1 October 2021 with the grant of 10 licences. Operators may now submit applications for a licence under the new regime. However, operators that have previously directly targeted the Dutch market will face a 33-month cooling-off period before being eligible for a licence and may be liable to penalty for continuing to make their services available to Dutch players (even passively) until such time as they are licensed.

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. Draft legislation consolidating Norway’s various gambling laws and further strengthening the regulator’s powers to address unlicensed gambling (such as through website blocking) and the advertisement of the same was submitted to Norwegian parliament for debate in June 2021, together with related consultations in September 2021. The draft legislation was approved in March 2022 and is scheduled to enter into effect on 1 January 2023.

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 for an online gambling licence. Lottery and land-based fixed-odds sports betting are reserved for the 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 implemented 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 are 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: The requirement that only land-based Slovenian operators are eligible for licences is considered by certain industry stakeholders to be incompatible with EU law. In September 2021, draft amendments to the Gaming Act were published by the government that seek to address the Act’s compatibility with EU law. The amendments are currently under discussion in parliament.

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 November 2020, Spain introduced significant restrictions on gambling advertising, sports sponsorship and welcome bonuses.

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. In January 2022, the Swedish government announced proposals to strengthen the regulation of gambling in the territory by introducing, for example, a B2B licensing regime and further restrictions concerning the promotion of illegal and unlicensed gambling.

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