An Overview of Austrian Online Gambling
While it's no secret that online gambling law can change often and be tricky to understand at times, Austria is a good example of a place that likely complicates things more than they need to be complicated.
The Ministry of Finance is responsible for giving licenses for online gambling and for supervising those companies that are given licenses, and the main law that governs online gambling in the country is the Law on Games of Chance which is frequently referred to as the "GSpG" for short.
Online Gambling Licensing in Austria
To become licensed for offering online gambling services in Austria, you have to meet a few requirements:
- First, you have to actually be physically located inside of the country.
- Second, you're only allowed to offer games to people in Austria.
These regulations have somewhat limited the number of international companies who are interested in setting up shop here, but for companies that are already located in Austria, it can be a pretty good opportunity.
This regulative was introduced with the June 2010 amendment to the 1989 Gambling Act, along with changes in casino taxes and their respective concessions.
Nevertheless, this restrictive policy for offshore located operators has been proven...
... practically illegal on two major occasions. For one, in September 2010, the Court of Justice at the EU (CJEU) was involved in a case against Engelmann, where it declared that such restrictions on establishment are practically a breach of EU laws regarding freedom of movement. Further criticism on the lack of consistency in Austrian gambling laws was made during the 2014 Pfleger Case. The CJEU explicitly pointed out to its failure to comply with international EU regulative, requiring significant improvements before they proceed enforcing it.
By 2015, this was proven in practice through a case against the operator Bet-at-home facing charges for not reimbursing an Austria-based customer.
In order to remedy the situation and bring order into the industry, the Federal Ministry for Science, Research and Economics drafted a bill in November, 2015 – the Vienna Betting Act and submitted it to the European Commission. It was intended to regulate consumer rights and illegal practices in Vienna, as well as to replace the outdated Act on Charges for Totalisator and Bookmaker Betting and Measures to Suppress Illegal Gambling from 1919.
Once the EC declared it legal and in compliance with their regulatory policy, Austria refocused on legalising online sports betting and gambling, simply under the existing Gambling Act.
The latest draft proposal of an amendment to the Gambling Act came in March 2018. The Ministry of Finance, responsible for the respective industry, aims to include IP tracking and blocking for illegal operators in order to protect their players from such establishments. What is more, those wronged by the illegal offshore operators would be able to seek remuneration under such legal regulations.
Semi-state owned Casino Austria and Oesterreichische Lotterien (Austrian Lotteries) are representative of the interactive gambling monopoly in the country, available at the one and only win2day platform.
There have been numerous bids to purchase a portion of its shares...
... coming from investment groups KKCG and Emma Capital, i.e. Novomatic and Sazka Group. While the final partnership deal was all but sealed by the middle of 2016, the National Cartel Court denied them the necessary legal authorisation saying it would hurt market competitiveness.
Speaking of win2day, it comprises the full extent of gambling activities allowed to Austrian players – poker, casino content, as well as the much awaited sports betting segment. Nevertheless, their partnership with Veikkaus back in 2017 definitely redeemed them for this shortcoming – it provided an integrated iPoker network powered by Playtech for both Austrian and players from Finland.
While proposed regulations and those already in place are yet to reach a degree of rigour, it is advisable to check for the operator’s license prior to playing.
Players themselves may not experience too harsh legal or financial consequences, although it ultimately depends on the circumstances.
Player Protect in the Austrian Jurisdiction
In the past, Austria has been criticized for putting more effort into trying to increase tax revenues than really protecting the players.
In 2010, however, a number of important changes to the Austrian Gambling Act were made that have cleaned up their regulations quite a bit and made them a great asset to the players.
As mentioned above, the 2010 Amendment included a change in casino taxes by lowering them down to 30%, increasing casino concessions and introducing AWP outlets, all for greater service variety. Along with the changes in the following years, consumers were definitely addressed with greater care than ever before.
Overall, Austria is actively making an effort to get past the reputation they once had years ago for not being the most dependable jurisdiction. Now they are definitely on the side of the players and of making sure the industry is legitimate for the companies they license.
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