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Europe is a collection of 58 different countries of various sizes, all with different views of gambling and different gambling and poker laws. While there is quite a variety here, overall, Europe is the most progressive region in the world towards gambling, or at least has some of the most progressive countries in the world toward it.
Gambling has deep roots in Europe but it’s only been lately that things have really taken off, due to the emergence of the online gambling and online poker market. Europe is at the leading edge of this, and several of its countries already have a well developed system of online gambling regulation, with several more planning to do so in the near future.
For the most part, the focus in Europe has been one of permissiveness, looking to license and regulate gambling rather than just prohibiting it. Most countries have land based gambling of some sort, and gambling is pretty widely accepted among the population of the continent overall as well.
The European Union has certainly made its presence felt in the world of modern European gambling, and have sought to enforce its ideals of free trade among its member nations, particularly those who have or currently have gambling monopolies in place.
These monopolies are at odds with the mission of the European Union, and they have not been afraid to enforce their requirements, which in some cases has led to legal action. This has shaped and continues to shape gambling regulation in Europe, with several cases pending, in addition to their wielding their influence over prospective EU members.
How The EU Influences Poker Laws and Regulations
The EU reserves the right to approve all gambling and poker regulations, in all the countries that are members, and this has led to some real conflicts. Countries do not have to abide by the strict standards of free and open trade though. For instance, several countries such as France, Italy, and Spain have some pretty exclusionary regulations, only permitting domestically focused online sites to be licensed, as opposed to allowing players to play on any EU licensed site, which is supposed to be the directive.
The EU hasn’t been that demanding though, and do allow countries to offer exclusive licenses in their own countries only, and prohibit the rest, in spite of the fact that they may hold a license in another EU country. However, there are standards of open competition that the EU does wish to enforce, for instance, that companies located in the EU be free to apply, and not just domestic companies.
There are several proposals that either do not meet or may not meet these relaxed standards, and they will be subject to further scrutiny. There are other countries, such as Finland and Sweden, who have openly defied the EU on this matter, however this will all eventually need to be settled in court, and the courts have and will continue to side with the EU on these matters.
Many countries do not have any online gambling regulation at all though, which allows for players to simply play where they want, and in cases where there are restrictions here, the governments will often seek to prevent players from downloading gambling software, including online poker software, but this has met with limited success, as if players really want to play there is no good way to stop them from playing where they want.
Europe is certainly a hotbed of online poker, and many of the country specific sites, particularly those from France and Italy, consistently rank among the world’s busiest poker sites, beating out almost all sites that don’t have to get all their players from just one country.
Europe On The Leading Edge Of Poker Regulation
France and Italy were the first countries to put together a successful licensing and regulatory framework, and several other European countries followed them. In the early days of this it was thought that these licensed sites would have to be limited to players from the specific country only, but recently it has been shown that this need not be the case, and that domestic online poker can be successfully regulated while still allowing players to play on the main, globally focused sites.
It’s likely the case that the regulators in France, Italy, and Spain misunderstood the significance of all of this, and the fact that a lot of players do not consider poker sites other than the Poker Stars main site to have the traffic they want. So while Pokerstars.fr and Pokerstars.it may both be in the top 10 worldwide in terms of traffic, many players go off the grid as they don’t consider the traffic these domestic poker sites get to be near enough.
A lot of countries in Europe aren’t big enough to make this workable at all so we should see the number of non confined systems to grow. The only country with a real shot at pulling off a healthy domestic poker market was the U.K., but they have wisely chosen the open system, which is fortunate because this is important enough to players that many will simply refuse to comply with the regulations, and tax revenue will then be failed to be captured, when it may have been otherwise.
Playing Poker In Europe
As far as live poker goes, there is a fair bit of it in Europe, with some countries having more of it than others, but on the whole the amount of live poker tables is quite small indeed in comparison to the population. There are less poker tables per capita then you see in the United States, for instance, and the state of California alone has more live poker than all of Europe does at this particular moment.
So live poker is more of a niche thing in Europe, with a little available for those who really want to play it, and who are willing to travel a bit to play it. Of course this depends on where you live but there are some pretty large areas with only a few live poker tables to go around, and there are also cases where there may be none for hundreds of miles.
Online poker, on the other hand, is accessible to anyone with a way to connect to the internet. In some countries there are approved sites you can play on, and in others you can simply play where you want, and in some, like Russia, you aren’t supposed to be playing online at all.
However, as mentioned, this is impossible to enforce pretty well, and the best that authorities can do is to make it a bit inconvenient for people to download online poker software, or to prohibit certain financial transactions with online poker sites, and perhaps exclude those who aren’t familiar with the workarounds needed for these challenges.
As far as the future of poker in Europe goes, online poker continues to be very popular, and there is room for growth here. In terms of the laws, they continue to evolve with each year and the trend is toward looking to increase the tax revenue generated by online poker, which is something governments are pretty fond of, although there are some schemes that are not very well thought out at all, both proposed ones and ones that governments actually are trying to get to work.
So we have a detailed discussion of the poker and poker laws for all 58 countries in Europe, which will provide you with a good overview of what’s going on in each country as far as poker laws are concerned, in addition to where this may be headed.