Austria has decided to implement IP-blocking of online gambling sites not holding an Austrian license.
At present, only the partially state-owned Casinos Austria is officially licensed to conduct online gambling within Austria via its Win2Day site. Austria’s Council of Ministers has now ordered internet service providers to block internationally licensed online gambling sites from crossing Austria’s digital borders.
Casinos Austria’s online monopoly hasn’t stopped the Austrian government from taxing online gambling revenue derived from Austrian punters at a rate of 40%, regardless of where a site is licensed. The European Commission (EC) has challenged the legality of Austria’s gambling regime but the state has insisted the Pfleger ruling applied purely to land-based gaming.
Geo-blocking is increasingly finding disfavor with the EC, which is trying to reduce trade barriers between member states, not reinforce them. On Wednesday, the EC agreed to proceed with its European Digital Single Market (EDSM) plan, with specific priorities to be unveiled on May 6.
Andrus Ansip, EC VP for the Digital Single Market, told a press conference that European consumers and companies “are digitally grounded. They cannot choose or move freely. In the 21st century, This is absurd.” At present, just 7% of small and medium-sized businesses conduct business across EU borders. It’s hoped that the EDSM could push this figure to over 50% for e-commerce firms.
Ansip used the word “hate” to describe his personal feelings toward geo-blocking, calling it “old fashioned.” However, Ansip said online gambling wouldn’t necessarily benefit from the EDSM, as exceptions would be allowed to respect individual member states’ prohibitions on the activity. However, hope remains that EDSM would put further pressure on countries like Austria, Sweden and others whose monopolistic gambling policies have already been deemed suspect by the EC.