European Governments Restricting Online Poker

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eu1.jpgSeveral European governments have enacted or are drawing up plans to restrict online poker. Germany recently put into effect a ban on online gambling, and this ban is already facing challenges from the European Gaming and Betting Association, which is urging the European Commission to take legal action against Germany. Austria is getting ready to launch its own state-run online poker room which will restrict the amount of money players may bet in a week. Finland is considering making a law that would effectively force online poker rooms to ban Finnish players. The Swedish government is currently being challenged by the country’s media outlets who are complaining against the laws prohibiting advertising from foreign-based gaming operators.

Germany’s ban on online gambling, the German Interstate Treaty, is very similar to the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act that was passed in the United States, as it puts pressure on credit card processors and other financial institutions to not approve gambling related transactions. The ban went into effect on January 1, but the EGBA has challenged the ban saying it is in “Direct contravention of EU law.”

Austria has chosen to take a different route by creating a state-run poker room, hoping to profit from the poker boom. Casinos Austria stated that they had a 300 percent increase in profit last year and expect it to continue. The Austrian poker room will be run on the Casinos Austria gaming site at In cooperation with the Austrian government, Casinos Austria will be set a betting limit for all of its players. No player may bet more than €800 per week on any form of gambling, including poker. This will be done as part of a concerted effort to fight gambling addictions.

In Finland, a report commissioned by the government’s Ministry of Social Affairs and Health is recommending that the government change its gambling laws so that Finnish poker players could claim their losses back, a move that would effective make the online poker rooms ban Finnish players due to the losses the poker rooms would incur. Under the law, poker losses could be recovered from the online site, the credit card company or even the player to whom the Finnish player lost to. The law would be justified by saying that it protects children and problem gamblers, but would accomplish its true purpose of banning online poker.

In Sweden, the newspaper Aftonbladet, which is the country’s largest newspaper, wrote a letter to the European Commission that is calling upon the EC and EC Internal Market Commissioner Charlie McCreevy to take legal action against the Swedish government because of its restrictive laws that are designed to protect the Swedish gambling monopolies. The newspaper is complaining that the ban on media outlets accepting advertisements from “foreign gaming operators” will cost the newspaper over €8.5 million a year due to losing the revenue that the advertisements would provide, and that the ban also unduly restricts the information that the newspaper’s readers receive. The newspaper then goes on to complain against the Swedish government’s stance of fining the newspaper €16,000 for each banned advertisement the newspaper carries, which would cost the newspaper over €100 million a year. The letter finishes its complaints with the statement, “It is high time to put an end to the Swedish government’s disrespect for the EU Treaty.”

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