Proper Regulation May Turn Eastern Europe into the Next Big Online Gambling Hub

Western Europe has turned into the epitome of iGaming regulatory progress, with some of the countries in the region adopting online gambling regulatory frameworks that have contributed significantly to the overall growth of that portion of the industry.

Originally, Eastern Europe lagged behind in terms of the creation of regulated markets, but the past two or three years have seen more and more countries from that part of the continent jump on the iGaming regulation bandwagon.

For over two decades, online gambling has grown from an industry newbie into an important part of the global gambling scene. And its influence will only grow in the years to come; it will only change and evolve to suit a growing demand for digital gaming and sports betting in literally all parts of the world.

With Eastern Europe steadily opening its doors for regulated gambling operations, some of the industry’s big names, that is operators and service providers, have expressed clear interest in operating in local markets. Yet, here it is important to note that the region has been approached with a certain amount of caution.

The reason for this cautious exploration lies behind Eastern Europe’s economic past and present. Gross domestic income in countries from the region is generally lower than that in Western Europe. In other words, there is a big concern whether there will be higher value players from that part of Europe.

On the other hand, there is a general trend of people turning to gambling at a time of economic difficulties. Lower income may increase one’s avidity for improving their financial status and gambling can be seen as a means to achieve this. In other words, Eastern European markets may be ones of great potential and this potential has clearly been spotted by top-tier operators and service providers.

Although the European Union and the European Commission have been urging for a certain extent of uniformity in the way online gambling (and gambling as a whole) is offered and promoted to consumers, truth is that each country approaches the matter in an individual manner.

As mentioned above, there have been a number of countries to have regulated their online gambling markets over the past several years. And as it can be suggested, they all feature their own regulatory frameworks. However, if a broader statement about the current iGaming status quo in the region should be made, it can be said that some of the countries have turned into quite attractive hubs for major operators and providers, while others have seen a massive exodus of those same operators and providers.

For instance, Romania overhauled its gambling law back in 2014. Last year, the country’s gambling regulator – Oficiul National pentru Jocuri de Noroc – began issuing permanent licenses to interested operators and providers. And it turned out that the newly regulated jurisdictions draw an extreme amount of interest from some of the industry’s big names.

Poland, which adopted a new regulatory framework less than a month ago, turned into Romania’s exact opposite. Prior to regulating its market, major operators like bet365, William Hill, and Pinnacle, to name a few, provided their services to local players. However, the new law turned to be one that instead of providing both customers and operators with a friendly and diverse regulated gambling environment, it closed the market for international casino gaming operations and imposed a 12% tax on turnover on remote operators. Hence, the exit of the above-mentioned operators and many other from Poland.

To sum up, Eastern Europe is a region of great potential when it comes to online gambling. However, the way local markets are regulated and are to be regulated may prove to be a huge obstacle to the industry’s growth there and to its capability to leverage on that potential.

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