04th Jun2020

How Western Europe became the center of online gambling

by James Smith

The online gambling landscape has changed tremendously in the past few years. As online gambling has continued to grow by leaps and bounds worldwide, more and more Western European nations have continued to open up to the vast economic possibilities that arise when otherwise strict gambling laws and restrictions become lax.

It is no secret that the growth of the internet and its increased availability has helped to facilitate the growth of the online gambling sector in not just Europe, but the rest of the world as well. If you take a look down memory lane, you will discover quickly that land-based casinos were originally established to cater to the wealthy elite.

However, as online gambling has emerged, any average Joe with access to a computer or phone and an internet connection can take part in the thrills provided by online gambling. Today, the Western European online gambling market has been on an extraordinary upward growth curve.

During this short period, mobile gambling has become the leading platform, with sports betting and casinos trailing closely behind. The entry of new western European countries such as the Czech Republic into the sphere implies that this growth will continue as operators look towards expanding their geographical reach to give even more access to new players across the world.

So how did online gambling explode in popularity in Europe? Here is a breakdown of how Western Europe became the center of online gambling:

How online gambling in Europe came to be

It all started with a poor economy

The history of online gambling can be traced to 1994 when the Caribbean state of Barbuda and Antigua became the first to regulate online gambling. Barbuda and Antigua granted licenses to any organizations that wished to offer gambling services through online casinos when the Free Trade and Processing Act was passed.

However, it was not until 1996 that the first online casino, known as InterCasino started operating, paving the way for other online companies in the world to start working. The majority of the countries in the world today still operate under the Free Trade and Processing Zone Act.

Across Europe, governments were forced to legalize online gambling as a way to reduce cavernous budget gaps. Although the opposition to online gambling always existed, most European countries at the time were cash strapped, which left with little choice but to legalize something they once viewed with a lot of skepticism.

While the US has always opposed the legalization of online gambling citing concerns about gambling addiction, Europe’s objection has always been for a different reason. In numerous parts of Europe, politicians objected because they feared that liberalizing gambling would undermine state-sponsored lottery cartels and casino operators.

However, as more and more firms continued spurning brick and mortar casinos and as more people continued logging in to online poker and sports betting websites, it became clear that their resistance was futile.

Britain takes charge

Britain was the first country in the western bloc to make online gambling legal back in 2005 followed by Italy, which has been legalizing internet betting in phases over the years. Today, Britain has grown to become one of the largest, if not the largest, online gambling market in the world.

Apart from highlighting the potential to generate revenue as a benefit of legalizing online gambling, British policymakers also cited a couple of more reasons for bringing gambling aboveboard. One of them was the need to protect problem gamblers who frequented these websites.

The second was as a result of increasing pressure from the European Union, which claimed that some member states were utilizing online restrictions as a means of protecting state-controlled casino operators from the unnecessary competition. Today, well known British gambling companies such as London’s Inspired Entertainment continue to grow as they expand their footprint into other burgeoning markets such as North America.

Gambling in Western Europe today

In Europe, especially in particular countries such as the UK, gambling has long been acknowledged as a practical form of adult entertainment for years. Part of the reason why gambling has always been so accepted in Europe is owing to the history of gambling in the region. Apart from slot machines, a lot of popular gambling games were created and rolled out in European countries such as Italy and France.

The longest existing brick and mortar casinos today are located in Europe. The reality is that gambling has been legal in numerous parts of Europe for more than 200 years. As such, Europe has always been at the helm when it comes to online gambling.

Within Europe, the United Kingdom enjoys the largest share of the gambling market with Germany and Scandinavia following behind. In some European countries such as the Netherlands though, online gambling remains entirely proscribed or concentrated within smaller games such as bingo or the lottery, which all remain largely under state domination. For instance, in Scandinavia, almost all forms of gambling are operated by state-owned firms.

Some countries in Europe still have a long way to go

Some western European countries such as France still have quite a long way to go when it comes to making online gambling free and legal for all. Although gambling is legal in France, only land-based operators are legally allowed to offer casino, sports and racing betting. Brick and mortar casinos maintain power, which has made it increasingly difficult for online operators to succeed.

In addition to making it difficult for online operators to conduct business, the gambling legislation in countries like France imposes high taxes that further make it impossible for online operators to carry out business.

As it stands, online gambling in the European Union remains mixed. Western European countries such as the UK, Monaco, and Belgium have established clear licensing procedures that are controlled by local governments. They also have a set of regulations that must be followed by operators.

These markets in the western bloc have understood that to attract an international clientele that is active and ready to invest in regulated markets, there has to be a transparent and competitive law in place, which largely explains why western Europe is today’s center of online gambling.

Final Thoughts

As online gambling continues to become widespread, the opportunities for online gambling businesses in Western Europe are going to prove very lucrative. Whilst the situation in many other parts of the world remains uncertain, online gambling in Europe is expected to become even more popular in the future.

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