Online Casinos- The Legal Outlook for 2010. What´s Happening With the Law

Posted on January 6th, 2010

Online casinos are legal in the UK of course, since the government has taken the stance (enlightened in our view) that this industry is better regulated than made illegal, which only serves to push it underground.

But what about the online casino market in other countries around the world? How does the law across the planet treat this pastime?

Well, famously, the US government under Bush has tried to strangle off the industry (which hasn´t gone down to well in the Eu as a lot of the more successful companies in the US were European). They´ve done this by making it more difficult to carry out gambling transactions online. Predictably, the industry has just moved offshore and invented a new toolbox of financial instruments to enable people to continue playing poker, bingo and on the tables online. But what about other countries?

Well, the Swiss are considering allowing open competition from online casinos in the betting market. The governement there have decided that trying to ban Internet gambling is basically a lost cause- so they are following the UK down the regulation road. Individual cantons (or regions) may have the right to regulate online casinos as they see fit.

Because Switzerland is not a member of the EU, it can set its own rules- but they will be closely watched by all the EU countries to see how this strategy will work out for them.

Head north to Belgium, however, and it´s a different story. The Belgium government is setting out its stall, despite a nudge from the European Commission that many of their plans do not fit with the European Union Treaty. Belgian rules would require a physical presence in the country and for operators to be possesion of a Belgian license which are to be limited in number. EU rules specify that Belgium must recognize the licensing authority of other EU member nations as well.

The EU is meant to be a region where all members compete freely with each other in a free market, unchained by tariffs or local protectionism. But many EU countries are falling short on this.

In this sense, Belgium has followed the line of France and Germany who are both risking a legal slap down from the EC for not allowing competition in their gambling markets.

So is there anyone else in the regulation camp along with the UK? Well, Spain seems to be heading in that direction. The rest are “wait and sees”. The plot thickens, as they say.

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