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Luxembourg first started offering gambling on a limited basis starting back in the 1880’s with the opening of the Casino Bourgeois in Luxembourg City. Nowadays they have a more modern casino, the Casino 2000, which is the sole licensed land based gambling establishment in Luxembourg. (1)
Luxembourg is a very small country though by area, less than a thousand square miles, so one casino might not seem like very much for an entire country, but no matter where you live in Luxembourg, it is only a short drive to get to anywhere else in the country, so it’s very accessible to all who wish to gamble.
Casino 2000 does not offer live poker though, and the country does not have any live poker rooms per se, so those who wish to play it at an actual poker room have to travel outside the country, but in this case this isn’t very far and there are live poker rooms in Belgium and the Netherlands which are only a short drive away.
Luxembourg prohibits the operation of unauthorized games of chance, games which depend in whole or in part upon chance, which includes the game of poker. So these games cannot be operated without specific authorization from the government, meaning that the gambling environment is regulated, not necessarily prohibited.
The law in Luxembourg does speak to the operation of gambling though and in that sense it is seen to be outdated as it doesn’t really contemplate residents participating in gambling that is held outside the country. This is a situation we see in many jurisdictions where the thinking was that if a certain kind of gambling is not operated in the country then this will be sufficient to control it. (2)
Luxembourg Gambling Regulation
The Ministry of Justice in Luxembourg has been given power to authorize any form of gambling they see fit though. Luxembourg has had a lottery since 1945 for instance, which was set up to help assist the country recover from the Second World War.
Aside from the Casino 2000, they also have the power to authorize sports betting, and have made allowances for the playing of live poker, Stud poker only can be offered in casinos, oddly enough, and this is probably why you don’t see it rolled out, as stud poker hasn’t been popular for a good many years, so this law can certainly stand to be revised to actually include games that players like to play these days, such as Texas Hold’em and Omaha.
For whatever reason though, the Luxembourg government has been particularly concerned about the potential for poker to be addictive, and have therefore been less reluctant to permit it than with other forms of gambling. I’m not sure why they believe this as the evidence doesn’t point to this and in fact casino gambling is normally thought of to be more of a problem here.
In any case, they do now allow poker to be offered to the public by establishments such as bars provided the stakes are low, under 50 EUR per player.
Online Poker In Luxembourg
Luxembourg law and regulations do not distinguish between online and live gambling, although keep in mind that all gambling operators in Luxembourg must obtain a license to offer it legally, and thus far the only online operation that has been authorized is the Luxembourg lottery.
It is possible in theory for an operator to apply for a license to offer online poker in Luxembourg, although with the country’s reserved status toward poker, that will perhaps need to change before this may really be possible.
Given the very small size of this country, of only a little over half a million people, it is unlikely that an online poker site would be viable here, even with the country’s penchant for gambling, where it has the third highest per capita gambling expenditures in Europe, even ahead of the U.K. which is particularly known for its love of betting.
It’s more likely that any approved online poker that emerges in Luxembourg would consist of allowing operators outside the country to officially offer gambling to Luxembourg residents, like what was done with sports betting, where the government now allows two German sports betting sites to do so. (3)
This of course goes on anyway, and residents of Luxembourg can access any online gambling sites they wish, but regulation such as this would make perfect sense for the government as it would allow both additional tax revenue to be generated and would also give them more of a say as far as controls go.
For the operators, this could serve to open up the market more to them in Luxembourg so they could promote their operation more in the open, through domestic advertising and promotion for instance. Also, by being certified by the government, they could create a more willing atmosphere for players to play at their online sites.
Since Luxembourg is a member of the EU, there is at least some concern that the country may not be complying enough with EU standards toward gambling, although this is nowhere near as big of an issue as it is presently with several other European countries who have clearly run afoul of the European Commission and legal action is underway to get them to comply.
So the bottom line here is that there is really nothing standing in the way of Luxembourg poker players playing at whatever online poker sites they wish, and they indeed do so. There also isn’t any further regulation of poker on the horizon in Luxembourg but for all practical purposes it is not needed, unless of course the government wishes to participate in the process and reap the benefits of doing so.
That may end up happening some day but it does not appear to be a priority right now and from the perspective of online poker players there’s no reason why they should care either. The first step toward progress here would be to loosen up the poker regulations in general and allow it to be offered more widely and actually have their casino offer a game people want to play, getting rid of that old requirement of it being offered as stud poker only, and then and only then will the stage be set for looking at online poker regulation.