Internet Gambling in Europe: State of the Art (I)

2 April 1998

Sometimes, it appears that the developments in the field of Internet gambling, nambling or interactive (home) gambling seem to take place only in the United States and Australasia. The recent charges of the US government against Internet sportsbetting companies, the Kyl bill and initiatives like the Pennsylvania Prohibition Bill may lead to the conclusion that when it comes to regulation of Internet content, one should focus on the New World. And, nearly all attention is focused on the discussions and statements of several provinces and policy makers Down Under regarding the regulation (licensing) of Internet gambling.

But what about the developments in Europe? Regulators and policy makers, not to mention interactive gamblers, should not forget the initiatives that are already (and will be) undertaken in this field by several European governments. When the (US) discussion about Internet content, for instance, was still in its infancy the government of Liechtenstein, a small independent state situated between Austria and Switzerland, allowed an Internet lottery.

And even Gibraltar, part of the United Kingdom, allowed some forms of Internet gambling long before the government of Queensland initiated legislation on this topic. The Finnish Lotto organization, Veikkaus, was probably the world's first government-owned gambling operator to go online.

Austria was among the first countries that worried about the upcoming gambling operations on the Internet. And, last but not least, Switzerland allowed in-flight gambling on SwissAir aeroplanes.

My point is -and I will express that in upcoming stories- that the developments in Europe regarding the use of Internet may not be neglected. The traditionally known gambling monopolists in most of the European countries are all focusing on these new developments. Their carefully caressed, protected position seems to be at stake, after all. The potential loss of revenues for charitable institutions including the exchequer, yet another peculiarity of the European gambling market, frightens many of them. Due to the fact that these monopolists are nearly all state owned or state controlled, thoughts about the opportunities or threats of Internet gambling reach directly to the European governments and the European regulators as far as they are not already themselves implementing new (forms of) legislation, drafted under the supervision of the European Community (EC).

It is, therefore, time for a round up about the developments in the field of interactive gambling in Europe. This round up will start with a focus on the Scandinavian countries. We'll pose and answer such questions as the following. What did Veikkaus learn from its Internet initiative? Is there more to come? What about the existing multi-jurisdictional Viking Lottery which is already available in Iceland, Sweden, Norway, Finland and Denmark? After that, we will take a closer look at Germany, France, The Netherlands Austria and the United Kingdom. This round-up will be finished with a highlight of the situation in the Southern countries of Europe, like Spain, Portugal and Italy.

To be continued...

You can reach Arjan van't Veer at