The EC Treaty states member states must allow a free movement of services, but European countries can regulate gambling with severe restrictions if the laws they put in place show a need to protect the public. Thus, European gambling laws vary from country to country. While some countries have recently opened their markets to more gambling, others have imposed tighter restrictions on gamblers.
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The U.K. has some of Europe's most liberal gambling laws. Bookies are a common sight in most British towns and many gambling companies have a main office in the country. Gamblers can bet on a variety of amusements, including horse racing, sports betting, casino games, slot machines and poker. With passage of the 2005 Gambling Act, a national gambling commission was set up as the sole regulator of gambling licensing. The commission has jurisdiction over most forms of gambling outside the National Lottery and spread betting. The act also allowed licensed companies to advertise on TV. As of 2010, gambling companies based in the U.K. must pay a 15 per cent tax on their profits. Betters don't have to pay tax on their winnings and poker players can play professionally without paying income tax on what they earn. The legal age for gambling in the U.K is 18.
Like the United Kingdom, Ireland has very liberal gambling laws. Irish tax law states that winnings from lotteries, games with prizes and betting are not subject to income tax. This includes poker. As of 2010, lawmakers in Ireland began looking into new gambling laws that would require offshore gaming companies to obtain an Irish license and pay tax on their profits. To gamble in Ireland, you must be aged 18.
In 2010, France put a new gambling law into force that particularly affects Internet gambling. State-run gambling monopolies now must compete with foreign companies and all companies must pay tax on their turnover and charge betters a gambling tax. For example, online poker players now must pay a two per cent tax on all pots and tournament fees. The law also mandates that Internet gambling sites restrict access to residents of France only. The minimum gambling age in France is 18.
Italy enacted new gambling laws in 2009 to comply with EU legislation by allowing non-Italian companies to offer their services in Italy. However, like France, Italy now prohibits its citizens from gambling with anyone not residing in the country. Online cash poker games are no longer allowed, as of 2010. In Italy, you can gamble from the age of 18 and wagers on sports, bingo, casino games, horse racing and poker are all legal. Gambling companies must pay a 20 per cent tax on gross profits.
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- Europa: Free Movement of Services: Commission Inquires Restrictions on Sports Betting Services in Denmark, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands and Sweden
- Office of Public Sector Information: Explanatory Notes to Gambling Act 2005
- BBC News: Major New Gambling Laws in Force
- Independent Newspaper: Abolition of Betting Tax Fuels Boom in Gambling
- Tax Ireland: Lotteries