The EU is a federation of nation states with a difference, actually it’s 28 differences, and that
creates more issues for online gambling providers than merely translation
If you get 28 countries speaking 24 different languages (officially) together and ask them to agree on
something it’s probably best you bring a book and some sandwiches because the chances are they’re
going to be a while discussing it and sorting out the details. The EU has since it’s reinvention in the
early 1990s been swept up in a process of harmonization amongst its member states that has been
notable for its entire lack of harmony. The tendency for nations to stand up for themselves rather than
enter into the community spirit of things manifest and evident.
This process whilst still ongoing lags behind the cutting edge of both consumer demands and service
provision. The borderless nature of the internet interrupted and limited by some nations frightened of
the competition to their own state run gambling operations, or allowed free rein with application for
licenses and some guarantee of bona fides required in others. However the uniformity and equality laid
out in the EU’s founding principles is still a way away.
Service Provision In The EU
• Online gambling companies face difficult situation
• Diverse regulations and attitudes across the EU
• mobile casinos gaining popularity amongst EU citizens
The impatience of its citizens however has meant that where there is a will there is a way, and despite
bizarre regulations and technical blockages, if one wishes to gamble online in the EU one can do so
quite easily. Blocked sites can be accessed with a few clicks, anonymity can be preserved with a few
more and the transfer of funds is now no more complex than copying numbers from card to computer
or typing in a PayPal password.
This then leaves service providers having to operate in a potentially huge market which is beset with
numerous issues and problems that ebb and flow with political whims and economic fortunes. The
seemingly arbitrary lines on the map that divide the EU into nations are age old tribal divisions,
marking out territory of one culture or another, and adhering to the regulations applicable in each is
beholden upon those entering into the business.
Variety Isn’t Always The Spice Of Life
The legality of internet betting in in the EU varies from country to country within it. Hungary bans it
altogether, Malta licenses it. Spain keeps a close eye on what people wager and where, Italy ignores
the fact anyone does at all. The Danes don’t like it but won’t ban it, and the Russians have banned it but
don’t stop it. It can even depend upon the location of an operator. Some nations allow foreign (remote)
service providers, the UK for example, whilst many others do not, making the EU a legal minefield into
which online gambling sites creep wearing clown shoes.
Malta is a prime example of bizarre EU gambling laws, where it licenses online gambling entities to
provide services, provide services to anyone but their own citizens, which might on the face of it seem
somewhat mercenary, but has been a necessary part of economic stability on the island. However is
Malta is a microcosm of two-faced attitudes to online gambling, in a wider sense the patchwork of laws
across the EU create an even more bizarre issue, but this one for the tax authorities.
Some nations in the EU tax the winnings of players. Spain for example does this, and one must declare
all winnings to the authorities, the UK on the other hand doesn’t tax winnings at all, and in Russia
where online gambling is illegal no one pays tax on winnings because no one declares them. These
three wholly different taxation regimes means that the equality of service provision becomes almost
impossible, and the EU’s ideal still a shimmering mirage in the distance.
Of course those nations that have legalized online gambling, such as the UK, have been at liberty to
take their slice of the 85 billion euro pie in taxation and fees, and the recent introduction of a 15%
tax for remote operators in the UK market has seen some shift of business entities to Gibraltar and
Malta where the corporate tax rates are more favorable to offset this little addition of overheads by HM
government. Oddly this is precisely what the EU was designed to prevent happening.
Wag The Dog?
Beyond the legal diversity and EU taxation issues that those who provide EU poker rooms online or
mobile gambling operations must deal with, there is the inherent framework for gambling per se that
the EU has attempted to create. The logic behind it was entirely sound, the idea itself a simple one and
the overall structure would be one everyone could recognize and work with…….which is probably why
thus far it has wholly failed to be of any use whatsoever.
The European Gaming & Betting Commission seems to spend most of its time wringing its hands and
bemoaning the fact that every country, and indeed sometimes regions within those countries, has its
own gambling commission that each cling to their now out of date regulations, or impose new ones to
preserve the status quo or protect monopolies they themselves control. Rather than creating a harmony
of legislation on the subject, the EGBC has been held hostage by local national demands.
With online gambling alone in the EU set to generate revenues of 13 billion euros in 2015, some 15%
of all gambling within the EU, the fiscal incentives are not for governments to give up their rights
to levy fees or taxes as they see fit, and the consumer is only considered in terms of spreadsheet box
fodder. Online casinos in the EU care far more for their players safety and security than do the greedy
interests of big government and the grasping tax man.
That the EU will eventually harmonize its internal regulations as they apply to online gambling is
beyond doubt, there are too many other issues of legal difference that must be settled for this to remain
the inconsistent mishmash it is at present, however in the meantime operators are walking a thin line
between the opportunities of profit and the dangers of falling foul of one of the many pitfalls that lurk
within the online gambling industry of the EU.