In recent years, Europe has developed into a hotbed for sports betting websites. With tax havens dotted around the continent, new bookmakers have come on to the market and established firms have grown exponentially. The online gambling sector is on an upwards curve, and in Europe, is buoyed by the fact that the laws and restrictions on betting online are not as stringent as elsewhere in the world. There is some differentiation when it comes to legislation in the different countries (which will be discussed below), but by and large, European citizens have it pretty good
There is no single answer as to which are the best sites for Europeans to use when betting online – it really depends on a range of factors. Although largely accommodating, some firms don’t accept sign ups from certain countries due to the laws in different places (it is a cost-benefit analysis for these bookmakers as to whether any sanctions or legal cases are worth the business they will obtain by operating in a particular country).
Two of the major factors that determine the quality of a bookmaker are how competitive the odds are, and how big a bet they are willing to lay. Some firms that offer very attractive odds tend to have very low staking limits, and restrict customers very quickly. A combination of fair odds and willingness to lay a bet are important factors when it comes to picking a bookmaker.
The sign up bonuses also vary by bookmaker, country and time of year. Some firms will offer concessions and promotions to potential clients from particular countries in order to drum up business in that region. Sign up bonuses can be very attractive for customers, and the lure of ‘free money’ to help build a betting bankroll is likely to persuade punters to highest offer. However, they need to be wary of the terms and conditions attached with the promotions, as some make it incredibly hard for individuals to actually withdraw their initial deposit and bonus funds.
100% up to €122
100% up to €100
In such a competitive online market place, and with technology ever improving, the vast majority of bookmakers offer a plethora of deposit options for their customers. E-wallets such as Neteller and MoneyBookers are becoming the most popular way for customers to fund their accounts, as they offer anonymity, security and separation from a day to day bank account. They also enable bettors to transfer their funds between different bookmakers cheaply and efficiently. Debit/credit cards are also still accepted, but withdrawal times (typically 3-5 days) are off-putting some individuals who want to access their funds faster. Other methods customers can use to deposit money include bank transfers, pre-paid cards, Paypal and vouchers.
As mentioned above, although Europe as a whole is fairly laid back when it comes to online gambling, policies regarding regulation and legality of online gambling vary by country. Below we take a brief look at the legislative landscape in Europe’s major nations;
United Kingdom: Many of the top European bookmakers were founded and run in the UK (the majority now base their business in tax havens such as Malta and Gibraltar), online gambling in the UK is both legal and tax free – there are no restrictions for punters. Furthermore, a few years back the government changed their laws to allow betting firms to advertise on TV and in the press, and the gaming industry has been booming since.
France: Online sports betting was long a state run monopoly in France, but pressure from the EU forced a revision to the laws, and in 2010 the country opened their doors to foreign-based operators. Betting exchanges remain illegal in the country despite opposition from Betfair and other firms. Recreational bettors are not required to pay tax on online winnings, however those who are classified as a professional gambler are subject to deductions.
Italy: The liberalisation of online gambling in Italy has been a gradual process, which was ignited in 2003 when a complaint was made against the Italian government on the grounds of infringement. A state run monopoly was restricting foreign operators from offering their services to Italian clients. In 2009, the law was changed and allowed foreign firms to offer their services to Italian clients once they received an Italian licence.
Germany: The laws regarding online betting in Germany are confusing, as there is a mix of national laws and more limited state laws. The ‘Interstate Treaty on Gambling’ was implemented by 15 of the 16 German states. The law gave permission for ISP’s to block access to online casinos and other gambling portals, and made it illegal for German banks to accept transactions from betting sites. However, this practice was deemed to have violated European law and in 2012 the German betting market was partly liberalised, with private enterprises able to apply for sports betting and lottery licences. The number of licences were initially limited to twenty with a 5% tax imposed on stakes. So far, the German government have been very reluctant to issue licences, and have provided stringent requirements for firms to be accepted. We look at it in even more detail here. Despite this, German customers are accepted by the vast majority of online bookmakers who are not licenced in the country, and there are a number of firms who specifically target German citizens.
Spain: A new law that regulates and licences bookmakers in Spain came into effect in 2012. Since then, over 70 operators have been licenced, and online sports betting and gambling is completely legal in the country. Betting gains in excess of €2,500 are taxable at 20%.
Sweden: Sports betting is extremely popular in Sweden and it is in principle completely legal, assuming that the operator has received a special licence. However, the Swedish government have only given out a licence to the state-backed Svenska Spel. The powers that be appear to be fighting a losing battle though as turnover at Svenska Spel has gone down in recent years, whilst internationally licenced firms have seen a revenue increase from citizens of the Scandinavian country.
Greece: Online sports betting and gambling, is also freshly legalized in Greece. Greek citizens will pay a flat 10% tax on all online gambling winnings.
Denmark: Denmark has recently opened its state run monopoly on internet gambling as has started to allow outside operators who are licenced. However, it is stringent in its approach with bookmakers who are not licenced, and has blacklisted many since the changes came into force in 2012.
In addition, many other European countries are being forced to regulate and liberalize their online betting laws to comply with EU legislation. Check your local laws and regulations for legality and tax information.
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