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Gambling laws and regulations in force in European countries

Published on October 15, 2020, 10:44 pm

by Jeff Grant Twitter account Jeff Grant LinkedIn account

The gambling regulation in Europe

Europe is a gambling hub, with many online gambling firms having their headquarters in this continent. Gambling is growing by the day, attracting several clients and, in the process, experiencing different trends, such as the online betting concept. There are several transactions in the gambling sector, and they need to have some regulation for them to go on smoothly.

Europe, as a continent, does not have uniform laws in charge of betting, though the many countries in this region have their own set of laws. Let us have a brief overview of this industry, starting with its beginnings.

The Origins of Gambling in Europe

Traces of the earliest games of chance date back to around 500 BC, where gamblers speculated on various events, with a wager on the winning prediction. Over time, dice games began to pick up pace and became common, especially in China with the rise of Keno. During these times, gambling was frowned upon by authorities, and gamers started using gaming chips to hide the game’s identity.

A gaming wave reached Europe in the 15th century and changed the gambling sector. As gambling was taking great interest in so many countries, in 1638 the world's first casino was built (Venice, Italy). Its name was ‘Il Ridotto’, which was a government-owned gambling house, that later changed its name to ‘Casino di Venezia’. As more and more casinos began decorating this evolving industry, there was a need for regulation for the welfare of all parties involved.

The State of Gambling Regulation in Europe

As already mentioned, there are no uniform laws governing betting in the European Union. The countries in this region have their laws, and we will look at some of the notable ones.

The United Kingdom

The United Kingdom has some of the friendliest gaming laws in Europe, which encourages the formation of new online casinos. The Gambling Commission is the body in charge of most forms of gambling from sports betting, bingo, arcades and slot machines.

About the UK Gambling Commission
The main purpose of the UK Gambling Commission (from the About us page of the official Gambling Commission website)

The commission seeks to keep crime out of this industry and protect the vulnerable. It issues betting licenses and advises the government on vital issues in this vast industry.


In Sweden, the Swedish Gambling Authority is the body in charge of the gaming and gambling sector. It ensures the industry is reliable and safe, overseeing poker, sports betting, lotteries and social gaming. This body ensures a level field for all Swedish online casinos and other betting entities while protecting the welfare of their clients.


For a long time, gambling was illegal in Spain until its decriminalization in 1977. In 2011, the Spanish Gaming Act came into force to regulate gaming. The Directorate General for the Regulation of Gambling takes charge of digital gambling and is part of the Ministry of Finance.

For land-based casinos and similar gaming entities, the relevant authority in the autonomous region takes the regulatory role. The National Gaming Commission, under the Ministry of Interior regulates Spanish lotteries. Lotteries from foreign territories are not allowed.

Reasons for Gambling Regulation

  1. Promotion of Responsible Betting

Gambling is an addictive engagement, and there is a need for responsibility from both the players and the bookers, which in this case are the betting firms. This prevents gambling addiction from going overboard as it can affect the countries social structure, especially because there is money involved.

  1. Prevention of Fraud

The gambling industry can be a front for financial fraud such as money laundering. This is an act that both the players and the company can engage in and mask their tracks. The regulation will look at the source of funds of the company and prevent this financial fraud from happening.

  1. Tax compliance

Another reason for regulation is tax compliance, where the betting firms should meet their tax obligations. The companies have to provide their transactions over an indicated financial period and pay levies where necessary.

  1. Customer Protection

The regulation also seeks to uphold the rights of customers who subscribe to the various gambling sites. Some companies can take advantage of the customers, especially when it comes to payouts, and the regulatory bodies ensure that this does not happen.

European online gambling age restriction
European online gambling age restriction (by jurisdiction)

Part of protecting customers involves setting age limits so that minors do not participate in gambling and also protecting vulnerable groups. Some regulatory authorities require betting firms to educate their clients on responsible gaming.

Final Thought

The European gaming industry is massive and continues to grow each day, as evident by the many trends it has like online betting. With such a large annual turnover, the sector needs regulation for the goodwill of all players involved, especially the customers.

While there is no uniform law to govern gaming from the European Union, the member states have their laws as we can see from the highlighted examples. The laws uphold consumer protection, keeping off financial fraud and ensuring the companies are tax compliant. Before getting into any of the new online gaming platforms, ensure they have the proper regulations to operate.


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