This is a guest contribution by Darren Moore of Betting Gods Ltd. If you would like to submit a contribution please contact Bill Beatty for submission details. Thank you.
Legislation surrounding sports betting is changing all the time, and this is especially true in Eastern Europe. In this blog, we will take you on a whistle-stop tour of the region and see what each country has to offer.
The Baltic states
After initially only being open to domestic operators, the Gambling Act in Estonia has now led to international sports betting businesses joining the online market. In 2012, vital legislation was introduced, meaning that international operators are no longer required to have servers on Estonian soil. Now that the market is regulated, authorities in Estonia have begun to clamp down on unlicensed sports betting companies, including horse racing. Internet gaming licences are awarded by the Estonian Tax and Customs Board.
In Latvia, regulation dates back further, to 1998. The Lotteries and Gambling Supervisory Inspection is the body that issues licenses, and there are laws which might prevent international sports betting operators from entering the market. Some online betting websites were blacklisted as a result of the laws, which were enforced at the start of 2014.
In Lithuania, the total of companies that are permitted to offer gambling in the country stands at 17, but a lack of specific reference to internet sports betting leaves them in somewhat of a grey area. While technically they are prohibited, there is a lack of enforcement when it comes to banning them.
International sports betting companies have faced threats of blocking from the authorities, but ultimately the laws on online sports betting are not enough to perturb Russian gamblers in this huge market.
This giant region of Eastern Europe includes Albania, where there are limits placed on the nature of sports betting, and plans are currently being set up to begin a licensing system that will see unaccredited operators banned. In Bulgaria, a licensing system is enforced, but authorities have set about relaxing financial requirements from operators in order to strengthen the market, meaning that any international sports betting provider can apply to operate.
Bosnia and Herzegovina contains a high number of sports betting shops, and also a large number of international providers after attempts to block them proved unsuccessful. Croatia has done its best to pass laws that strengthen the position of its local sports betting providers, as only organisations that have set up shop on Croatian soil are allowed an online licence.
In Macedonia, authorities have tried to carve out a monopoly of the sports betting market, taking advantage of the popularity of the online market, in particular. The European Commission is said to be keeping a close eye on developments. In Montenegro, gambling has been legal since the country was formed in 2006. Services including sports betting are regulated by the Games of Chance Administration.
In Romania, the authorities attempted to bring in laws that stipulated sports betting companies must have a link to a land based casino, but the European Commission put paid to those plans. Romanians are now able to access a range of international sports betting sites online. In 2011, the authorities in Serbia began an initiative to stamp out black market sports betting. The online sports betting market in Serbia has been hit by the regulation which requires gambling sites to have a physical presence – this has led to the closure of some.
In Slovenia, while land-based sports betting is governed by the Slovenian Gaming Act, online ventures currently have no way of obtaining a gaming license, leaving the sector unregulated.
The Czech Republic and Slovakia
Operators that offer sports betting online in the Czech Republic are obliged to pay a special tax and international sports betting operators are technically barred from the market, although the sites themselves are not blocked. In Slovakia, although sports betting is not prohibited, no official licenses have been handed out by the authorities. This has contributed towards the use of international sports betting sites by customers.
In Poland, a wave of political scandals prompted the authorities to step up their regulation of sports betting. Sportsbooks are granted licences for a period of six years, and they go to operators that have a physical presence within the country’s borders. The European Commission is reported to be keen on opening up the Polish gaming market in the interests of the wider European Union.
Sports betting online is not allowed in the Ukraine, and authorities have a track record of clamping down on citizens that are found to use them. Gambling services are offered by the state itself, through its lottery organisations. At the present time, the waters remain murky for international sports betting providers wishing to enter the Ukraine market.
What lies ahead?
We are currently in a stage of transition for the sports betting market in Eastern Europe, as those states which had previously left the market largely unregulated begin to put more guidelines in place. Where previously operators might have had little incentive to co-operate and form groups of affiliates, now they must work together in order to expand their operations as markets open up. And in many cases, this goes for regulatory bodies, as well as the operators themselves.
In online sports betting, in particular, the software needed to operate modern platforms means the securing of licensing will become increasingly important as time goes by. With a significant potential revenue stream from taxes to tap into, we could see a greater number of Eastern European states setting up a regulatory framework around sports betting.
That puts the onus back on the software suppliers to sports betting companies – they must then make sure they are meeting all the regulations set out by governments.
We could see templates taken from frameworks currently being used in Western Europe, with laws adopted which reflect sports betting in those countries.
Darren Moore is the founder and director of Betting Gods Ltd, a rapidly expanding UK based provider of sports betting content and professional betting advice. Spending half of his time working on the Maltese islands and half in the UK it’s no surprise that Darren is one of the industry’s rising stars.