EU Betting Sites
The European Union can be considered a single entity with respect to many economic affairs. That’s thanks to the EU passing economic legislation that applies to each of its 28 member states (which will become 27 after “Brexit”). However, when it comes to sports betting, the EU members remain separate, with each responsible for creating its own legal framework for each EU country.
As a result, the legality of sports betting, including at online sites, varies from country to country. Below are the top EU betting sites.
Best EU Betting Sites
Betway makes it easy to get started and then keeps you there with its huge selection and numerous ways to bet.Bonus: Up to £30 Free Bet
888sport is a fun site that makes it easy for the beginner to get started. It also offers enough extras to keep seasoned bettors interested, though some pro-bettors may be turned off.Bonus: 100% up to £100
bet365 serves millions of bettors around the world - the sheer number of international leagues they cover is unparalleled, among other perks.Bonus: Available
Established in 1983 and online since 1996, Intertops is one of the old guard when it comes to sports betting. Decent odds and enticing bonuses mean their solid stature in the market is more than deserved.Bonus: 50% up to $200
A big name that's been in business since 1934 doesn't need flashy promos as long as the service is dialed-in - William Hill is that name.Bonus: £30/€30 of free bets
As you will see, each country takes a legalize-and-regulate approach to online sports betting. However, some are much more flexible and liberal with their licensing regime than others, and that seriously impacts the number of legal options available to bettors.
The table below briefly summarizes the situation in each country. The ensuing sections provide more detailed descriptions.
|COUNTRY||IS ONLINE SPORTS BETTING LEGAL?||ARE ONLINE BOOKMAKERS REQUIRED TO HAVE A LICENSE?||IS IT SMART/SAFE TO USE AN UNLICENSED SITE?||DO ONLINE BETTORS HAVE TO PAY TAX ON WINNINGS?|
|France||Yes||Yes||No||Yes. if over €1,500|
|Ireland||Yes||Yes||No||No, except for”professionals”|
|Netherlands||Yes, but barely||Yes||No||Yes, but it’s withheld by the operator|
|Spain||Yes||Yes||No||Yes, if over €2,500|
|Sweden||Yes||Yes||Maybe||No, as long as the sportsbook is licensed in EU|
Online sports betting is legal but heavily regulated in France. To legally offer sports wagers to French residents, a betting sitemust be licensed by the ARJEL (Autorité de régulation des jeux en ligne, which appropriately translates to “Regulatory Authority for Online Games”).
Since the French government places heavy tax burdens on operators, many online sites register in other jurisdictions and yet still try to offer their services to people in France.
Under the current legislative framework, this is considered illegal. Even if an online sportsbook has a license in a foreign jurisdiction, say Gibraltar, it cannot legally provide sports-betting services to the French public without a license from the ARJEL.
This is the case in many areas of the world. However, the French authorities are more proactive in policing it than most, going so far as to block access to certain websites from within France.
[Though] the mere act of placing a bet at an unlicensed sportsbook may not be illegal under French law … using an unlicensed sportsbook still comes with a number of risks.
It should be noted that, like in the US, the mere act of placing a bet at an unlicensed sportsbook may not be illegal under French law. The laws tend to target online betting providers instead of the individual bettors.
However, using an unlicensed sportsbook still comes with a number of risks. You cannot be certain that unlicensed sites will remain accessible from within France. The authorities may take steps to block access and effectively shut-down their presence in the country at any time, since it is operating illegally.
As a result, the safest route for sports bettors in France is to use a licensed sportsbook.
Figuring out which sites are licensed and which are not is straightforward. The ARJEL keeps an updated list of all the licensees on its website: http://www.arjel.fr/-Liste-des-operateurs-agrees-.html.
The ARJEL keeps an updated list of all the licensees on its website.
The site is in French, obviously, but if you are using a web browser like Chrome, you can easily translate the page to English. (While the grammar won’t be perfect, you’ll be able to decipher the essential elements.)
If (when?) your sports-betting efforts prove fruitful in France, be aware that everything over €1,500 must be declared as income and, as such, is taxable. According to rgweek.com, online betting is taxed at around 9%.
The legal status of online sports betting in Germany is in a state of flux and has been for some time. The German government has long sought to heavily regulate the market and, in 2012, passed an amended Interstate Treaty on Gambling, which prohibited online betting (and online gambling in all its forms) except for those offered by the government or licensed by the regulatory authorities. (This law was actually a relaxation of an earlier law, which didn’t even allow for licenses and effectively created a state monopoly.)
The new law came under siege almost as quickly as it came into effect. Importantly, the EU’s Court of Justice has ruled that the law impermissibly restricts online gambling sites based/licensed in other countries from offering their services to Germans.
[T]he EU’s Court of Justice has ruled that [Germany’s online betting law] impermissibly restricts online sites based/licensed in other countries from offering their services to Germans.
The German government responded by amending the law, but only slightly, and said amendment has not come into force. The amended law would simply increase the number of licenses the government may grant; it would not give foreign sportsbooks carte blanche to operate in Germany. It remains to be seen whether such a law – if it ever comes into force – would be deemed an acceptable restriction by the courts.
What Germany is currently left with is basically a garbage heap of laws pertaining to online sports betting. The laws on the books require sportsbooks to have a license to operate legally, but the laws themselves (and the licensing process they create) have been deemed impermissible by the EU courts.
In practice, a number of foreign-based sports-betting sites continue to operate in Germany (meaning they continue to accept German bettors and continue to be accessible from within Germany’s borders). Unlike in France, where the authorities have taken a hands-on approach to restricting access to unlicensed online operators, the German government does not appear to be actively trying to stop these foreign sportsbooks from operating in Germany, likely because of the state of the existing laws.
As the International Comparative Legal Guides’ 2017 paper on Germany states, “[T]he licensing process for … sports betting licenses … has been held incompatible with EU law … Criminal proceedings have … rarely been initiated. … German enforcement authorities … have been reluctant to enforce gambling law violations, one explanation for this likely being that German gambling regulation has been characterised by legal uncertainty due to it facing severe criticism in light of EU law for years now.
In relation to sports betting … any enforcement action brought against sports betting operators in a situation where an unlawful de facto monopoly persists (as held to be the case in Germany) is incompatible with EU law.”
[I]n the rare instances when [German] authorities do prosecute breaches of gambling legislation, it is the operator that is held liable, not the bettor.
The paper also notes that, in the rare instances when the authorities do prosecute breaches of gambling legislation, it is the operator that is held liable, not the bettor.
The end result is that Germans can feel quite safe – from the state authorities, at least — when it comes to using online betting sites, whether those are licensed in Germany or elsewhere.
Choosing the best and most-secure sportsbook in Germany doesn’t come down to whether it is licensed, but will instead be determined by a multitude of other factors, like:
- a history of timely payments
- a reputation for anonymity and security
- accessible and easy-to-use help sections
- a wide variety of deposit and withdrawal methods
- strong customer service representation
- a broad selection of sports markets to wager on.
Regarding taxation, only winnings from the state-run sites are taxed. Due to the disorganized and muddled legal regime that currently exists, there does not appear to be any process in place for taxing winnings from private online sportsbooks.
Like most European nations, Ireland regulates online sports betting through a licensing system. The Betting Act 2015 is the relevant law at the moment, and provides that anyone looking to provide bookmaking or betting services to people in Ireland must be granted a license by the Revenue Commissioners, which double as the Irish tax service.
As with any regulatory system, this has advantages and drawbacks for the general public. The fact that sportsbooks have to pay tax and go through the bureaucratic hoops of obtaining a license leads to things like higher juice on the other end.
However, the licensing system also ensures that only legitimate sportsbooks offer their services to Irish residents.
Under the current legal framework, the officers of the corporation applying for a license must, inter alia, obtain certificates of personal fitness.
Additionally, licenses are only granted for two years at a time and, according to the ICLG, one of the factors that the Revenue Commissioners consider during renewal applications is whether the sportsbook has paid its debts. That’s important, as bettors cannot sue sportsbooks for unpaid debts in Ireland, or vice versa. (Gambling debts are generally unenforceable.) The licensing system provides an impetus for sportsbooks to operate on the up-and-up.
As with most countries, the penalties for unlicensed sports betting fall almost exclusively on the operators. But Irish punters are well-advised to stick to licensed books, nonetheless. If an online betting site is offering its services to Irish bettors without a license, there is going to be a concerning reason for it. Either it does not want to pay the €10,000 license fee, it does not want to pay the applicable tax, its application was declined, etc. Whatever the reason, it leads to serious questions about the sportsbook’s legitimacy and/or financial health.
When it comes to taxation on gambling winnings, the average Irish better can rest easy. Only professional gamblers have to pay tax on their betting profits.
Who qualifies as a “pro”? That’s for the Revenue Commissioners and the courts to determine. Generally, it depends on how much a person bets, their level of expertise, and whether or not they have another job.
Once upon a time, Italy was like Germany, in that it banned all sports betting apart from state-run sites. Just like Germany, this paradigm was deemed impermissible by the EU and Italy’s sports-betting laws have since changed (way back in 2006).
Now, to operate legally in Italy, gambling sites must obtain a license from the AAMS, the regulatory authority in the country. Those that do not are liable to penalties.
Quite unlike Germany, the regulatory and licensing system created in Italy has been deemed acceptable by the EU’s Court of Justice as it is much less restrictive than the process the German’s attempted to implement. To get a license, a site must simply have a certain rate of turnover (€1.5M over the past two years), have its servers located in an EU member state, meet certain fee and tax obligations, and be “stable” and “reliable.”
When it comes to contraventions of the legal regime, the laws tend to target betting sites instead of bettors, and Italians who wager at unlicensed operators should not fear prosecution by state authorities.
However, the penalties and ramifications that could be levied on an unlicensed sportsbook would be felt by that sportsbook’s users, as well.
According to ICLG.com, “[w]here an operator offers gaming without a license, he could face criminal … and civil charges. The website will be banned and added to a blacklist.”
Hence, any bettors who choose to use an unlicensed sportsbook in Italy risk losing access to that sportsbook from within the country.
[A]ny bettors who choose to use an unlicensed sportsbook in Italy risk losing access to that sportsbook from within the country. … [T]he safe play for Italian bettors is to use a sportsbook that is licensed in Italy.
As a result, the safe play for Italian bettors is to use a sportsbook that is licensed in Italy. Luckily, due to the fairly liberal licensing system (which allows up to 200 licenses), there are a multitude of options which offer competitive odds on the most popular Italian markets, like football, F1, horse racing, tennis, and cycling.
When Italian bettors strike it rich, they get to keep all their hard-won spoils since sports-betting winnings are not subject to taxation in the country.
Counterintuitively, the usually liberal lawmakers in the Netherlands have a very conservative approach to online sports betting. At present, online sports betting is illegal in the Netherlands except at the sites run by the government-controlled De Lotto corporation.
Despite the strict regulatory regime, many foreign sportsbooks offer their services to Dutch bettors. However, the regulatory authority in the Netherlands (the Kansspelautoriteit ) takes a hands-on approach to punishing offenders and has levied heavy fines on many of these sites. As a result, many online sportsbooks have done away with their Dutch-language options (etc.) and there are comparatively few online betting sites that cater to Dutch customers.
While prosecution of those who bet at such sites is not a big concern, the potential for Dutch bettors to lose easy access to their bankroll is a big concern when it comes to using unlicensed offshore sportsbooks. You definitely don’t want to signup with a site and then have it block Dutch IP addresses the next week.
The new legal regime [set to come into effect in January 2019] will allow foreign-based sportsbooks to obtain licenses and, in turn, offer their services to Dutch bettors.
The good news is that the situation in the Netherlands is scheduled to change very soon. A new online gambling bill (the Online Gambling Bill) is scheduled to come into force on Jan. 1, 2019. The new legal regime will allow foreign-based sportsbooks to obtain licenses and, in turn, offer their services to Dutch bettors.
This will undoubtedly improve the betting market in the Netherlands by increasing competition for customers. Up to this point, the government-run entities were unchallenged and had little reason to improve their product or their odds.
In terms of taxation, Dutch bettors have to pay tax at a rate or 29% of their winnings (over and above €449). But according to Alan Littler of Kalff Katz & Franssen Attorneys at Law, “While participants are liable for the tax due on a prize, providers are required to withhold the relevant amount when paying out the prize.”
Since 2011 when the Spanish Gambling Act was passed, Spain has taken a nationwide legalize-and-regulate approach to online betting, akin to its major European neighbors covered above. To legally provide online betting services to Spanish residents, gambling sites must acquire a license from the relevant regulatory body (the Direccion General de Ordenacion del Juego, or “DGOJ”).
This was bad news for online operators as Spain was previously akin to the Wild West. Despite regulation at the provincial level, it was effectively a lawless land where anything went and online sportsbooks operated with impunity, regardless of location, stability, etc.
While the imposition of a licensing regime has decreased the number of (legal) options available to Spanish bettors, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The regime requires sites to meet certain standards and pay certain fees, which helps ensure that only legitimate sports-betting sites are permitted to operate.
As in Italy and France, it is wise for Spanish bettors to use a licensed site, even though the mere act of placing a bet at an unlicensed site does not appear to be illegal.
Consider the following from the ICLG:
[i]llegal offline gambling has always been duly prosecuted in Spain. However, [until 2011] Spanish authorities were quite permissive with regards to illegal online gambling operations.” But now, those who breach applicable gambling laws risk “substantial fines [and] the possibility of competent authorities suspending or revoking licenses in case[s] of significant or sustained lack of compliance.
That means online betting sites operating without a license are liable to have their Spanish operations shutdown at any point, which could, in turn, impact users’ ability to access their funds.
Given the diligence with which the authorities have attacked illegal offline gambling, that’s not a risk smart bettors would run.
How can you tell if you are using an illegal site? One requirement of obtaining a license is acquiring a “.es” domain name, such as “Bet365.es” or “WilliamHill.es.” If the URL of the site you are using does not end in “.es” it is likely operating illegally.
However, the converse is not necessarily true: having a “.es” domain does not necessarily mean that a site is licensed in Spain. So Spanish bettors should take steps to verify that their site of choice has the necessary license from the DGOJ to operate in Spain. (To translate that page to English using Google Chrome, follow these steps.)
Lastly, note that, when bettors in Spain win anything over €2,500, it must be declared as income and is taxed accordingly.
The Swedish government exercises strict control over the online sports-betting industry. In theory, any corporation can obtain a license to offer online betting products to people in Sweden. But, in practice, only one entity has been granted a license, and that’s the government-run Svenska Spel.
As in most jurisdictions with thick bureaucratic barriers-to-entry, many offshore sportsbooks offer their services to people in Sweden without a license. Unlike in places such as Ireland (where licenses are readily obtainable), the fact that a site is available to Swedes without a Swedish license does not imply anything nefarious (beyond the fact that it’s willing to operate in a legal grey area). Operating without a license is the only choice they have.
That doesn’t mean Swedish bettors should signup with the first site they find. There are both quality sportsbooks and extremely shady ones available to Swedes, and doing background research is essential to picking a safe, secure, reliable site that caters to your specific preferences.
In some ways, the situation in Sweden is akin to that in the Netherlands. However, the Dutch regulatory body takes a more hands-on approach to punishing unlicensed sportsbooks. According to a paper by Erik Ullberg et al. in The Law Reviews, Swedish authorities are more inclined to go after the Swedish-based companies that aid unlicensed sportsbooks than the sportsbooks themselves:
As the authorities do not have jurisdiction over the offshore gambling operators, they have instead focused on those in Sweden who carry advertisements for such companies.
The result is that Swedish bettors who sign up at unlicensed offshore sportsbooks are not putting their bankroll at any real risk, unlike their counterparts in the Netherlands, as long as they have chosen a site that is otherwise reputable.
Successful sports bettors in Sweden do not have to pay tax on their winnings, either, as long as they are using a site that is licensed somewhere in the EU.