Hungary is about to enforce a new law that will demote online poker to the category “game of chance”. The move will have an immediate impact on internet gambling in Hungary, because at the moment, the government holds a monopoly over all games of chance. As a result of this new designation, online poker in the country will soon become legal and regulated, and the state will have exclusive rights to all internet poker sites. At the same time, the law will effectively ban all other online poker sites in Hungary, and players are definitely not happy about this.
Hungary boasts one the highest rates of internet poker playing in Europe. Of the country’s 10 million inhabitants, 140,000 admit to being online poker players. The interests of these players are supported by both the Hungarian Gambling Association and the Hungarian Poker Association. It is expected that these groups will try to slow down the bill in the interest of keeping online poker sites in Hungary open to players.
Like elsewhere in the world, however, the Hungarian government would have a difficult time trying to prevent players from accessing foreign-hosted internet poker sites. Such sites are beyond the jurisdiction of Hungarian lawmakers and are not subject to local laws, so they remain free to offer online gambling services to Hungarian players.
Last month, the government proposed a different change to Hungarian gambling laws that would introduce a significant increase on taxes paid on land-based poker winnings. Poker has gone unregulated for many years, but as more and more underground poker clubs appear across the country, the government is obviously taking notice. If both laws pass, the Hungarian government will be in a position to bring in significant revenue from both online and offline poker.