Bratislava, Slovakia – In recent years, changes to gambling rules and regulations have led to increased investment across Central Europe, leading to rising tourism and a boom in iGaming and sports betting.
In the same way that diverse regulatory frameworks are applied between countries in terms of gambling in the European Union, nations in Central Europe tend to have a degree of autonomy when it comes to the regulation of iGaming.
This means that neighbouring countries may have wildly different legislative attitudes, with online gambling banned outright in certain jurisdictions. If you’re a gambler or discerning casino-lover based in the region, it’s essential that you know where you stand in terms of legality in your country of residence.
Take a look at this quick country-by-country breakdown of online gambling regulations across Central Europe to find out more.
While this beautiful country may be best known for its hot springs, goulash and paprika, Hungary has a rich gambling history that stretches back hundreds of years. While the national land-based/online gambling markets were previously subject to prohibitively strict regulations under a government monopoly, the floodgates opened with the passing of new legislation in 2013, following pressure from lobbyists within the EU.
Today, both land-based and online casino gambling are legal in Hungary and the country takes a more liberal approach to iGaming than many of its Central European neighbours. Since 2017, both domestic and offshore gambling operators have been doing business in the country.
In order to accommodate industry growth and encourage investment from smaller operators, the proposed tax rate for gambling operators has been cut along with the cost of an operational license.
Poland has had a somewhat interesting relationship with gambling over the years – while relatively unregulated in the country following its entrance into the EU in 2004, a 2009 corruption scandal involving the Sports Minister led to the imposition of stricter regulations (with the 2009 and 2011 Gambling Acts) and a blanket ban on most forms of online gambling.
At present, unlicensed online casino gambling (including with offshore casino operators) is illegal in Poland. The only form of legal online gambling currently permitted in the country is sports betting, while players may enjoy domestic online casino gambling via a state monopoly site.
The Polish government has even gone so far as to blacklist casino operators and place hefty fines upon those who fail to abide by the rules.
Slovakia is another country that has had a turbulent relationship with online gambling legislation, having only developed its own market in the 1990s. Despite growth in the 2000s, the national industry slowed considerably in 2016, when new legislation was passed forbidding Slovak players from using offshore or international online casinos.
Following industry shrinkage and a short period of state monopoly on gambling games, offshore operators were welcomed back to the country with the passing of gambling legislation in 2019. Since then, the industry has been growing modestly, although offshore operators have been applying for licenses at a slower rate than expected.
At present, the most popular forms of online gambling in the country include mobile gaming and online casino gaming – you can find out more about the latest Slovak gaming trends here.
Since the passing of legislation enabling offshore operators to apply for a license in 2017, the online gambling industry has been booming in the Czech Republic. As one of the most rapidly expanding markets in the Central European region, the Czech gambling industry has seen unparalleled growth, generating a total revenue of €1.36 billion in 2019.
While fantasy sports betting remains prohibited in the country, the main drivers of revenue include domestic physical slot machines and sportsbook gambling. A relative lack of investment from offshore online casino operators (when compared to local services) has been attributed to the high taxation of technical games such as slot machines, roulette, and blackjack (the rate stands at 35%) and the fact that offshore operators are required to submit huge deposits of €1.15 million for each game type offered.
Despite these financial obstacles, offshore online investment is likely to increase from 2024, when new legislation is due to see physical slot machines banned in the country.
Regulated land-based casinos have been legal in Slovenia since 1995, in which time they have served as a key source of tourist revenue. Despite its relatively liberal approach to casino gaming, online gambling is still tightly regulated in the country.
The forms of online betting permitted in Slovenia include online lottery, online sports betting, and online bingo, all of which are monopolized by the state – while legal online casinos (such as the Grand Casinò Portorož-licensed site) do exist, these must be under the supervision of established land-based operators.
It seems likely that the Slovenian online casino market will open up if the controversial new Slovenian Draft Gambling Act is passed through parliament, with players able to better access some of the best European casinos as recommended by Top10casinos.com.
The German iGaming market has undergone massive growth in recent years, generating €2.8 billion in 2021. Whereas online gambling regulations were previously distributed at both state and federal level, recent changes to the law (namely the 2021 Interstate Treaty on Gambling) have enabled legal online slot machines, poker games, and sports betting.
Despite the new-found freedom awarded to online gamblers in Germany, the market is still subject to strict regulation regarding deposit limits, live betting, advertising, auto-play, and exclusion periods.
Another Central European country that enables legal online gambling is Austria, where players can enjoy a range of casino and sports betting activities. Similar to Germany, the Austrian market is thoroughly regulated by the government, with operator’s licenses being issued by the Ministry of Finance – these regulations are mostly related to tax, player protocols, and offshore access.
Interestingly, licensed online casino corporations must be based in the country to operate legally, whilst Austrian casinos cannot offer services to players based in other countries. This means that, while legal gambling does exist in Austria, you’ll have to make sure that you follow the regulations.