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Slovenia has had legal gambling ever since 1989 when they achieved their independence from Yugoslavia, although for the first few years it went on completely unregulated. So while gambling places did spring up during this time, they operated outside the realm of government control, and governments really do like to get involved in seeking to control gambling and especially to tax it, so it was just a matter of time before a law was created to do just that.
It did take 6 years though to put this together, and the government eventually came up with the 1995 Gambling Act, which licensed and regulated all gambling establishments in Slovenia.
It can be instructive to look at how long it takes governments to pass gambling legislation to get an idea of how fast any future changes might take, and there is generally a good correlation between past and future legal changes like this. So from this we can say with some confidence anyway that changes in Slovenian gambling law don’t happen as fast as you may see elsewhere, and this seems to still be the case when it comes to planned future legislative and regulatory change as well.
There is a surprising amount of live gambling in Slovenia for its size, although a lot of the land based gambling is directed at tourists more than it is residents, although it’s pretty popular with residents as well. In particular, Slovenian casinos are known to attract a lot of people from over the border in Italy, and gambling revenue from tourists accounts for about a quarter of Slovenian’s tourist revenue, which is an incredibly high amount, and serves to show how important the gambling industry is to the economy of this country. (1)
There are a total of 13 casinos in Slovenia spread across 11 different cities, which is a very large number for a country of this smaller size, with a population of only 2 million people. In comparison, neighbor Italy has about 60 million people and is also much larger in area and has only 5 casinos. (2)
9 of their 13 casinos offer live poker, with a total of 34 poker tables located in the country, including 12 at the Hotel Casino Perla, Slovenia’s largest casino.
So while we can say that this isn’t a large number of poker tables, it’s all relative, as this is more action then you see in countries that are much larger. So Slovenians that want to play live poker do have some pretty good access, and given the small physical size of Slovenia, any location in the country is only an easy drive away, which makes things pretty easy.
Slovenia’s Attempts At Online Gambling Regulation
Of course, the easiest way to play poker for money is to just play it on your computer, and many Slovenians enjoy this pastime, the same way that players in other countries do. Poker isn’t quite as popular in Slovenia as it is in some other European countries, but it still has a good following.
The Slovenian government has been kicking around the idea of regulating online gambling for a few years now, although once again, things don’t seem to move all that fast as far as legal and regulatory change goes, and the original plan was to have this in place in early 2014, and it may be a while yet before things get all sorted out and we actually see regulated gambling here.
The focus of this plan is on online casinos though, which is the online gambling that most Slovenians play, and the plan is to set up a framework where licenses would be issued to companies wishing to offer sanctioned online gambling to Slovenians, where the government would of course collect tax revenue for allowing this. (3)
This new law also comes with a threat of banning websites as well as heavy fines for companies who do not comply with the new regulations, in other words offer play to Slovenians without licensure and approval from the Slovenian government.
As far as fines go, this would only apply to domestic online gambling companies, as they can’t fine foreign companies for not complying with their laws as these companies are located in different countries with different laws, and it is those laws that apply to them, not Slovenia’s.
This is the real beauty of the internet, as it opens the whole world up to players who wish to gamble, although governments do seek to limit these freedoms as best they can, although not very effectively.
Slovenia’s Efforts To Control Online Poker and Online Gambling
Slovenia has already attempted to block several foreign gambling sites, as several other countries have done, but websites have created other web addresses not on the list, creating a moving target of sorts. So you can try to block pokerstars.com for instance but they can come up with a different domain or several more for that matter, and these gambling websites generally don’t take any of this lying down.
Even more notably, all players have to do is to use a virtual network, which means connecting to a computer in another country which then connects to the internet from there, and therefore if there is a website you can’t access with your own IP address, you simply use a different one provided by these services and are now outside the control of the authorities in your home country. This is how people in many countries get around internet restrictions, including the very tight ones in China for instance.
So while the government in Slovenia would like people to not play at foreign online poker sites, there’s very little that they can do to stop this, and while these tactics can keep the uninitiated away, they do nothing to stop people that are in the know about getting around internet restrictions generally, and the online poker sites themselves are also making counter moves to make it easier for players in certain countries to access their websites.
It’s possible that Slovenia may one day come up with a scheme that will allow some of these foreign online poker sites to receive licenses, like has been done in several other European countries, but for now the licensing of online poker isn’t even an issue that is being looked at, and they are having enough trouble working out things to get casino gambling regulated, and it remains to be seen if that will even be successful, as the big online casinos may simply ignore it as they currently do.
In the mean time Slovenia has only made a half hearted effort to prevent people from playing online poker, they did try to block pokerstars.com but that didn’t really keep people from playing at Poker Stars, so things for now will just continue on as normal, which is just fine if you’re a Slovenian online poker player.