The European Union maintains a distinctive approach to gambling and sports betting, generally refraining from criminalizing these activities. Instead, individual member states within the EU establish their regulatory frameworks, requiring operators to obtain valid licenses to offer sports betting services, whether online or offline, within their jurisdictions.
This decentralized system allows member states to set their own rules and standards for licensing, ensuring compliance with local laws and safeguarding consumer protection measures. The requirement for operators to secure licenses underscores the importance of adhering to specific regulations, granting them the legal authority to provide sports betting products while allowing residents to engage in gambling activities within the boundaries defined by each country’s regulatory framework.
Within the European Union, the legal landscape governing sports betting is shaped by several pivotal directives and regulations. The Services Directive (2006/123/EC) aims to facilitate the freedom of establishment and services, influencing market access for betting services. Consumer protection laws enforce standards for responsible gambling, advertising and data handling, ensuring safe practices. Anti-Money Laundering (AML) regulations mandate stringent measures to prevent illicit financial activities. Varied taxation policies impact profitability, while diverse licensing frameworks, subject to national laws, establish operational standards. European Court of Justice rulings further influence the interpretation and application of these laws, collectively forming the foundation for sports betting operations throughout the EU, albeit with nuances dictated by individual member state regulations.
These regulations apply to online sports betting within the European Union as well. The directives and regulations mentioned earlier impact both online and offline sports betting activities. The EU directives, such as the Services Directive and consumer protection laws, encompass all forms of betting services, including those offered online.
For online sports betting, these regulations often involve specific provisions addressing digital platforms, such as requirements for age verification, responsible gambling measures, data protection and advertising standards applicable to online operations. AML regulations also extend to online platforms, necessitating robust measures to prevent financial crimes in the digital sphere.
Similarly, taxation laws, licensing requirements and the influence of European Court of Justice rulings are pertinent to online sports betting, ensuring that operators comply with legal standards and operate within the boundaries set by both EU-level and individual member state regulations, regardless of the platform or medium through which the services are offered.
Digital Services Act (DSA): The DSA proposal, introduced in December 2020 and since approved, aims to revise rules for digital services, including online platforms. While primarily focusing on issues like content moderation and user protection, it has implications for online betting platforms regarding consumer protection, transparency and liability for user-generated content related to gambling. According to the European Commission website, “The DSA rules will apply to all platforms from 17 February 2024. Since the end of August 2023, these rules already apply to designated platforms with more than 45 million users in the EU (10% of the EU’s population), the so-called Very large online platforms (VLOPs) or Very large online search engines (VLOSEs)”.
While adhering to overarching EU directives and regulations, individual countries define their licensing requirements, taxation policies and consumer protection measures. In our exploration, we’ll delve deeper into the specifics of some prominent EU member states to illustrate the varied legal landscapes shaping sports betting across Europe.
|Key Regulatory Authority
|Notable Gambling Acts/Laws
|Ministry of Finance (Bundesministerium für Finanzen)
|The federal Gambling Act (Glücksspielgesetz, “GSpG”)
|Belgian Gaming Act
|National Revenue Agency (Национална агенция за приходите)
|Ministry of Finance (Ministarstvo financija Republike Hrvatske)
|National Betting Authority (Εθνικη Αρχη Στοιχηματων)
|Betting Law (Στοιχημάτων Νόμος 106(i) 2012)
|🇨🇿 Czech Republic
|Ministry of Finance (Ministerstvo financí České republiky – MFČR)
|Danish Gambling Authority (Spillemyndigheden)
|Estonian Tax and Customs Board (Maksu- ja Tolliamet)
|Gambling Act (Hasartmänguseadus)
|National Police Board (Poliisihallitus)
|National Gambling Authority (Autorité Nationale des Jeux)
|French Gambling Act
|The Joint Gambling Authority
|Interstate Treaty on Gambling (Glücksspielstaatsvertrag 2021)
|Hellenic Gaming Commission (Επιτροπή Εποπτείας και Ελέγχου Παιγνίων)
|National Tax and Customs Administration (Nemzeti Adó- és Vámhivatal)
|Gambling Regulatory Authority of Ireland
|Autonomous Administration of State Monopolies (Amministrazione Autonoma dei Monopoli di Stato – AAMS)
|Consolidated Law on Gambling
|Lotteries and Gambling Supervisory Inspection (Izložu un azartspēļu uzraudzības inspekcija)
|Gambling and Lotteries Law
|Gaming Control Authority
|Ministry of Justice (Ministère de la Justice)
|Malta Gaming Authority
|Netherlands Gambling Authority (Kansspelautoriteit)
|Betting and Gambling Act (Wet op de kansspelen – BGA)
|Ministry of Finance (Ministerstwo Finansów)
|Gambling Commission (Comissão de Jogos)
|National Gambling Office (Oficiul Național pentru Jocuri de Noroc)
|Ministry of Finance (Ministerstvo financií Slovenskej republiky)
|Financial Administration of the Republic of Slovenia (Finančna uprava Republike Slovenije)
|Directorate General for the Regulation of Gambling (Dirección General de Ordenación del Juego, DGOJ)
|Swedish Gambling Authority (Spelinspektionen)
*This table provides a general overview and might require verification and updates based on the latest legal developments and specific regulatory changes in each country.
UK: Sports betting in the United Kingdom, both in a premises (non-remote) or online (remote), is legal. Any operator looking to provide gambling services in the UK will require a valid license for this specific purpose, issued by UK authorities. UK residents can place bets on sporting events at a betting shop or by registering an account with an online bookmaker or betting exchange that is licensed to operate within the territory. Bettors are not required to pay taxes for any gambling revenues in the UK; the gambling operators pay taxes according to the rates found in the HM Revenue & Customs guide for General Betting Duty, Pool Betting Duty and Remote Gaming Duty.
Germany: In Germany, sports betting legality has seen significant evolution and changes in recent years. The country has historically had complex and stringent regulations concerning gambling, including sports betting. The Interstate Treaty on Gambling (Glücksspielstaatsvertrag) previously imposed strict limitations on sports betting, allowing only a state-run monopoly to offer these services. However, amendments to the gambling regulations were introduced in 2020 through the Glücksspielstaatsvertrag 2021 / GlüStV 2021. These amendments marked a notable shift in the German gambling landscape, particularly in sports betting. The new legislation allowed for a more open and regulated market, permitting private operators to apply for licenses to offer sports betting services in Germany.
France: In France, sports betting operates within a regulated framework overseen by the regulatory authorities known as ANJ (Autorité Nationale des Jeux) and ARJEL (Autorité de Régulation des Jeux En Ligne). The country adopted legislation in 2010 that legalized online sports betting, allowing licensed operators to offer their services to French residents.
Spain: In Spain, sports betting legality is governed by comprehensive regulations established by the country’s gambling authority, the Dirección General de Ordenación del Juego (DGOJ). The Spanish government legalized online sports betting in 2011, paving the way for licensed operators to offer their services in the country.
ESports betting presents a unique challenge for regulators within the EU due to its rapid evolution and distinct characteristics compared to traditional sports. While some countries have embraced eSports betting within existing gambling frameworks, others are navigating how best to regulate and integrate this emerging category while ensuring adequate consumer protections and integrity in betting activities. Outright prohibitions on eSports betting within the European Union are not widespread across member states, although there are certain regulations in some countries that make it hard for eSports betting to comply (ex.: in The Netherlands, esports matches or tournaments should be organized under the authority of a recognized sports governing body, such as a national sports federation, which is not how these events are conducted).
Horse racing betting within EU countries operates within a framework of both national regulations and EU-level considerations. There’s no unified EU directive specifically addressing horse racing betting.
Rest of the World
Regions outside the EU and USA approach sports betting with varying perspectives and regulatory frameworks, influenced by cultural, legal and economic factors. Here are insights into how different regions approach sports betting:
Some Asian countries, like Macau and Singapore, have legalized sports betting within specific regulatory frameworks, often limiting it to licensed land-based establishments. Despite regulations, many Asian countries have thriving underground or unregulated betting markets, fostering a significant black-market presence.
Several African nations have a growing sports betting industry, often with a mix of online and offline operations, driven by the popularity of soccer and other sports. Regulations can vary significantly across countries, ranging from robust frameworks in some regions to less formalized structures in others, posing challenges in standardization and consumer protections.
Australia has legalized sports betting, allowing licensed operators to offer a wide range of betting options both online and offline. The country focuses on responsible gambling measures, advertising restrictions and initiatives to address problem gambling.
Several Latin American countries are considering or implementing regulations to legalize sports betting, aiming to create regulated markets for betting operators. Regulations vary across countries, with some opting for comprehensive frameworks while others are in the early stages of establishing legalized betting.
Many Middle Eastern countries have strict prohibitions on gambling, including sports betting, due to religious and cultural considerations. Despite prohibitions, underground or illicit betting markets may still exist in some regions.
Across regions, there’s a shift toward online betting due to technological advancements and increased internet penetration. Efforts to enhance consumer protections, combat illegal gambling and establish responsible gambling measures are becoming more prevalent globally.
Notable Countries / Regions and Legal Frameworks
In Macau, sports betting is a smaller segment of the gambling industry, primarily available in licensed establishments such as casinos and authorized outlets. Soccer predominates as the main focus for betting activities, regulated tightly by the Macau government to maintain integrity and prevent illegal operations. Limited in scope compared to other gambling options, sports betting in Macau is primarily offered through licensed venues, some integrated within larger casino complexes, with the Macau Slot Company Limited being a notable operator. While attracting both locals and tourists, sports betting in Macau remains a smaller facet within the diverse gambling scene prevalent in the region.
Nigeria stands out as one of the most significant countries in Africa when it comes to sports betting. It boasts a thriving sports betting industry, driven by a passionate sports culture, particularly in soccer. Nigeria’s population size, enthusiastic sports following and high internet and mobile penetration have contributed to the rapid growth of the sports betting market. The country hosts numerous licensed betting companies offering a wide range of betting options on various sports events, with soccer being the primary focus. The popularity of sports betting in Nigeria has led to a robust market, attracting both local and international betting operators seeking to capitalize on the country’s sports enthusiasm and betting culture.
In Australia, sports betting is a well-established and regulated industry, with a strong focus on both online and offline betting. The country has a mature gambling market, allowing licensed operators to offer a wide array of sports betting options, including horse racing, Australian rules football, rugby, cricket and more. The regulatory framework permits licensed bookmakers to operate both online platforms and retail betting outlets across the country. Consumer protection measures, responsible gambling initiatives and advertising standards are emphasized, aiming to ensure a fair and safe betting environment. Australia’s sports betting landscape also involves active participation from bettors, with a high level of engagement in sports events and a culture that embraces betting as part of the country’s sports enthusiasm.
Colombia has emerged as one of the most significant countries in Latin America concerning sports betting. The country established a regulated online gambling market, including sports betting, in 2016. Colombia’s forward-looking regulatory framework has allowed licensed operators to offer a variety of sports betting options both online and in retail establishments. The government’s efforts to legalize and regulate online gambling have contributed to the growth of a competitive market, attracting various local and international betting operators. Colombia’s proactive approach to regulation, coupled with its growing economy and an increasing interest in sports, has positioned it as a key market for sports betting within Latin America.
In the Middle East, several countries strictly prohibit all forms of gambling, including sports betting, due to religious and cultural reasons. Nations such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) maintain stringent laws that outlaw gambling activities, including sports betting, both online and offline. These countries enforce strict penalties for individuals involved in gambling activities, reflecting their adherence to Islamic law, which prohibits gambling as a form of entertainment or financial gain. As a result, in these countries, engaging in sports betting, whether through physical or online means, is considered illegal and is not tolerated within their legal frameworks.
 Digital Services Act (DSA) overview
 General Betting Duty, Pool Betting Duty and Remote Gaming Duty
 Staatsvertrag zur Neuregulierung des Glücksspielwesens in Deutschland
 Attitude to sports betting in the Middle East and the current situation