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Online Gambling in Europe: What you need to know
Encompassing 27 separate countries the European Union has many different, and often conflicting, laws regarding online poker. In this article I will sift through all the fluff and present you with the laws, regulations, and tax implications for online poker players in EU countries.
The 27 EU nations are Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.
Online Gambling Legality and Regulations for EU Countries
The EU has run into a bit of snag with online poker: Recent court rulings regarding online gambling have only further muddied the waters with one court passing down the ruling that sovereign governments can restrict online gambling, and a separate ruling that says national restrictions cannot override EU law. So which is it?
Well the real answer is that it hasn’t been decided yet, but as you’ll see in the next header this is something being worked on.
One major downside is that an EU court recently ruled individual countries CAN ban online poker. So, as it stands, each country makes it own rulings on online poker. A few examples of the differing online poker laws and regulations in the EU are:
- United Kingdom – I covered UK online gambling laws in a separate article where online gambling is basically completely legal and regulated
- Italy –Only allows online poker sites operating inside Italy and regulated by the Italian Government
- France –Is in the process of adopting similar legislation to the Italian model
- Poland, Belgium and even Germany have flirted with some types of bans, or limitations, on online poker, which have so far done less than the US regulations of the online poker world.
Current Climate in the EU
As I mentioned above, numerous European Union countries are looking to make their own decisions on online poker –whether for good or bad—and the issue is now being hotly debated by the EU government as well.
At this time there have been rulings on both sides and it’s unclear precisely which way the EU will go. Pro-gambling entities are hoping that EU law prevails, which would greatly hinder any restrictions put in place regarding online poker.
Back in February 2010, EU Internal Markets Commissioner Michel Barnier told Card Player Europe that, “I want to launch a constructive dialogue [on gambling] with the Parliament and member states and concerned stakeholders”.
Pending Online Poker Legislation in the EU
As mentioned above, Poland, Belgium, and Germany are looking at limiting or restricting online poker outlets. Of course the Internet is a hard thing to regulate.
Ireland is looking into legislation to regulate and tax online poker, similar to the British model.
France in 2011 enacted its legislation which like the Italian model basically limited residents to playing on licensed sites that operate only to French customers –effectively shrinking the potential player pool exponentially. For online poker players imagine going from PokerStars and its 50,000 players, to Action Poker and its 50 players.
EU Tax Laws Concerning Online Poker
With a host of different countries EU tax laws vary greatly by country. From the UK’s 0% tax on any winnings, to Hungary’s 30% tax on all poker winnings, to Denmark’s unbelievable 45%-75% tax-rate on winnings, you’ll find no uniformity in EU tax laws.
To give you some perspective on how far-ranging and different tax laws are across the EU I will give a brief explanation below on if, and how much, a country taxes your poker winnings based on 10 different EU countries. But I highly suggest finding a tax professional who can clearly explain the laws of your nation.
- Belgium –Gambling winnings are taxable in Belgium under Miscellaneous Income.
- Bulgaria –recently decided to tax all gambling winning at 10%
- Denmark –Denmark takes mind-boggling 45% tax on the first $4 million in winnings and 75% on anything over $4 million!!!
- Finland – Finland has started contacting professional poker players, stating that they must pay taxes on their winnings
- France –Only professional players in France must pay taxes on their winnings, casual players are exempt.
- Germany –With arguably the most confusing tax laws in the world, Germans are much better off letting their accountant determine what should be declared as taxable income or winnings
- Greece –Imposes a 10% tax on gambling winnings
- Spain –Spain taxes all winnings coming from outside the country (which would encompass online poker sites operating outside of Spain) but not winnings from providers inside the country
- Sweden –Much like Finland, Sweden has gone after online poker players claiming tax evasion
- United Kingdom –The UK does not tax gambling or online poker winnings
More European Gambling Resources
For those who are keen to know more about the laws concerning gambling in the EU and further afield in Europe, the links in this section provide an excellent knowledge base about the legality of online gaming in various jurisdictions throughout Europe.
- Read the study concerning an analysis of the legal regimes covering games of chance in the EU
- Read more about gambling laws in the EU