As a whole, Europe leads the online betting industry in terms of legalisation, regulation and innovation. It currently ranks as the largest overall market for gambling revenue and continues to plow ahead thanks to favorable gaming laws and high levels of disposable income. As you would expect in a healthy market, there is considerable competition. Only the sharpest operators have what it takes to earn a place among the best European betting sites.
Several European Union member states were among the first countries in the world to legalise online gambling, sports betting and poker. Chief among these is the UK which is home to many of the world’s biggest names in internet gaming. For the most part, the best European betting sites are either headquartered in the UK or got their start there.
Pro-gambling laws have done much to foster healthy competition and provide substantial tax dollars to various European governments. The industry is still in a growth phase with operators showing record revenue numbers and gamblers taking home ever-increasing jackpots. It seems every few weeks a lucky gambler hits the news after winning a multi-million euro jackpot.
Legality of Online Gambling in Europe
Each European nation takes a different approach to managing online gambling. On one hand, we have countries such as the UK, France and Spain that go the legalisation and regulation route. The environment in those countries is very pro-gambling and it’s good to be a player in one of those nations.
Other countries have gone the route of criminalization and internet censorship. There, the goal is to eradicate gambling or protect government-run monopoly providers. The environment in those countries is challenging, but we’ve seen time and time again that it is impossible to plug the leak with prohibition. Where there is a demand, someone always finds a way to provide the market with what it wants.
The European Union takes no official stance on online gambling other than to enforce free trade laws that promote competition. Basically, if a country chooses to outlaw gambling, it must outlaw it across the board and not just protect government-approved monopolies. If a country chooses to legalise online gambling, it must allow companies from other EU member states access to the domestic market.
We have seen more than a few clashes between EU member states and the EU itself as a result of protectionary measures enacted by various governments. For example, Greece once attempted to “legalise” gambling but it enacted harsh standards on foreign operators that were not imposed on local operators. Greek lawmakers tried to play both sides by claiming “legalisation for everyone” while simultaneously pushing out foreign competition through the use of heavy handed regulation and taxation.
The EU saw through the ruse and ordered Greece to change its tune and either ban online betting for everyone or allow it for everyone. That saga continues to this day and is but one example of how convoluted any discussion of online gambling in Europe can get.
Country Specific EU Betting Information
The complexity of the issue makes it impossible for me to give you one big list of the top European betting sites that would work for everyone. I do have a few recommendations near the top of this page that should work for the majority of our readers, but I have also put together many country-specific pages that go into much greater detail for each country in the European region. Your best bet would be to scroll down a bit, find your country and then follow the link to read more about the situation where you live.
United Kingdom: The UK is the leader in online gambling and was one of the first member states to legalize the activity. Home to many of the world’s largest bookmakers, the UK is rich in gambling history. Players have unfiltered access to both foreign and domestic operators and all forms of gambling are legal in the UK.
The UK is probably the best country in the world for punters, gamblers and poker players. Not only do you have access to all the best European betting sites, but you pay no taxes on your winnings. Additionally, the Gambling Commission is effective at regulating the industry and ensuring high standards of conduct among licensed bookmakers.
Read more: Online Betting in the UK
France: France allowed limited forms of online gambling as early as 2004, but it wasn’t until 2009 that the market was liberated and foreign operators were allowed to apply for licenses to offer their services to French citizens.
French betting sites do not operate with as much impunity as their UK counterparts due to tough regulations, but the passage of the French Gambling Act in 2009 did offer significant improvement. You can now safely bet online at a number of licensed operators from the comfort of home.
Read more: Online Betting in France
Italy: Italy joined the online betting bandwagon in 2010 with amendments of its own laws that enacted a framework by which operators could apply for licenses to serve the market. There are some great options for players, but short-sighted lawmakers prevented the market from reaching its full potential thanks to punitive taxation of operators and a “ring-fencing” policy that only allows poker players to play with other players from Italy.
I have been hearing rumors that Italy may take another look at its stance on ring-fencing and other issues. The Italian government has expressed interest in shaping a more growth-friendly market after last year saw declining gambling related tax revenues.
Read more: Italy
Ireland: All major European betting sites operate in Ireland under laws that basically mimic what the UK has in place. This goes for both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. You can play online almost anywhere you want and pay very little taxes in the process.
Read more: Ireland
Germany: Online gambling enjoyed popularity among citizens with foreign operators in the early to mid-2000s but in 2008, the national government outlawed all forms of online gambling. Taking an almost totalitarian stance, the government drafted rules to block gaming sites and stop German banks from doing business with foreign operators.
EU Courts put a stop this in 2010 and forced Germany to open up their market. 15 of 16 German states signed a 2011 treaty that was supposedly going to allow the issuance of 20 licensing to international gambling operators. The government delayed the process multiple times and no licenses were handed out.
Schleswig-Holstein was the sole state to opt out of the treaty, and it later passed its own set of laws to allow the issuance of up to 50 online gaming licenses. Seven betting sites earned licenses, but then a change in the state government resulted in Schleswig-Holstein signing the treaty and overturning the previous law that allowed those seven licenses to come into effect. However, the new government did not rescind those licenses. Instead, it will allow them to expire in 2018 with no plans for renewal.
What this means for citizens is that you do have options… for now. We can only speculate what will happen when 2018 rolls around. But for now, you can play online at several highly respected betting sites.
Read more: Germany
Spain: After restricting gambling to state run lotteries for more than 50 years, Spain legalized online gambling in 2008. They further liberalized the market in 2011 and allowed the expansion of foreign operators into the country. Spanish law allows online poker, sports betting, casino games and bingo to licensed operators.
Spanish bettors have the best of both worlds as the world’s biggest gaming sites are offered to Spanish citizens, and there is a legion on home-grown Spanish betting sites available, as well. Licensed operators pay a 25% tax on gross revenue gained in the Spanish market. Players are subject to normal income tax, which starts at 24%.
The situation in Spain is good for players, but the market struggles under a high tax rate and ring-fencing policies for online poker. Gambling sites are pushing the government to revise its gaming laws and changes may come in the future.
Read more: Spain
Netherlands: Outdated gaming laws in the Netherlands are interpreted to outlaw online betting, but the government has done little to enforce its halfhearted prohibition. Foreign firms are not supposed to accept players from the country, but most European betting sites do so anyways with little risk.
We’ve been hearing for several years now that the country has plans to legalise and regulate the market, but delay after delay has resulted in no major changes. For now, our Dutch readers can play at almost all major gaming sites with little legal risk.
Read more: Netherlands
Greece: Greek lawmakers have done everything they can to protect the state-run monopoly on gaming and now finds itself in violation of EU fair trade laws and shunned by the industry. The government made a halfhearted attempt to pass a law that would allow European operators to apply for licenses, but it is clear to everyone that burdensome regulations and tax rates are designed to keep everyone else out.
The government now seeks to prohibit online gambling by ordering internet service providers to block access to foreign betting sites. Even so, determined gamblers have found creative ways to bypass the filter and play online wherever they wish.
Read more: Greece
Belgium: Online gambling is legal but tightly regulated in Belgium. Companies that wish to serve the Belgian market must apply for licenses. Unlicensed sites are blocked by internet service providers and individual players have been fined for visiting unlicensed sites. You may place bets legally at licensed operators, but it’s important that you visit the right websites or you do face legal risks.
Read more: Belgium
Austria: Operators face a complicated mess of confusing gaming laws, but the situation is simple for players. You have access to all the world’s best betting sites in addition to Austria’s sole government provider. Only the website Win2Day.at is actually authorized to provide services to Austrians, but the reality of the situation is that you can play anywhere you choose.
Read more: Austria
Poland: Recent moves by the government have shown that Poland is determined to move the wrong way in promoting freedom of choice. Polish gamblers were once able to visit any online bookmakers they wanted, but the government announced in 2014 that it had collected the names and information of more than 24,000 citizens suspected of visiting offshore sites.
Read more: Poland
Sweden: Online gambling in Sweden has been legal for over a decade on the state run sports betting, poker and casino website Svenska Spel. Not surprisingly, the state run monopoly faces pressure from the EU due to violations of anti-protection trade agreements.
However, things still seem to be just fine for online gamblers in Sweden. Many foreign operators operate freely within the state and players have no problems depositing and withdrawing. In early 2014, Sweden made plans for a more relaxed regulated market that would license foreign operators.
Winnings from state run operations or those based in the EU are not taxable under Swedish law. Winnings from sites operating outside the EU are subject to Swedish income tax.
Read more: Sweden
Norway: Norway is like many countries in that it is technically illegal to bet online anywhere other than state-run gambling sites, but with little actual enforcement of the law. A 2010 law ordered banks to stop processing transactions to gaming sites, and that could result in your credit card deposit being declined. However, many offshore gaming sites still accept Norwegians and offer plenty of alternative deposit methods that are efficient and safe.
Read more: Norway
Finland: The legal landscape in Finland resembles that of Norway. Players are supposed to stick with a few state-run gambling operators but there is little in the way of enforcement. Finnish players can easily hop online, find a betting site and play for real money.
Read more: Finland
Denmark: The Danish government takes the free market approach to managing online gambling. International operators are able to apply for licenses and offer their services to players provided the operators can demonstrate competence, security and strong financials. The government does maintain a small blacklist of restricted betting sites, but almost all the major names in online gaming own a Denmark license.
Read more: Denmark
Portugal: Portugal updated its gaming laws in 2015 in an attempt to open the industry to competition from forum operators and exercise some form of regulation. Sadly, confiscatory tax rates have scared away almost every major name in online gambling.
Many big-name providers have left the market entirely and no longer accept customers from Portugal. There are still a few options for players, but hopefully lawmakers get with the program and amend the country’s laws.
Read more: Portugal
Romania: Romania has made great strides towards creating a gambling-friendly environment over the past two decades. Legislation passed in 2015 set up a framework by which European betting sites can apply for licenses, but burdensome regulations and fees have scared away all potential applicants.
Currently, most big-name gaming brands accept Romanians despite not having a license to do so. It is supposedly illegal to bet online at any unlicensed website, but there is no enforcement mechanism to enforce the law. The end result is you can play pretty much anywhere you want.
Read more: Romania
Bulgaria: Gaming laws in Bulgaria have been through quite a bit of change in recent times, but the dust has mostly settled and a handful of safe betting sites now hold licenses to operate within the country. Unlicensed sites are subject to internet censorship, but the country does seem to be relaxing its stance in comparison to years past.
Read more: Bulgaria
Hungary: Over the years, amendments to gaming laws in Hungary moved the country from having no licensing process, to having an expensive and complicated licensing process to having something more streamlined. It’s still a work in progress, but the good news for players is that most major European betting sites accept Hungarians.
Read more: Hungary
Czech Republic: The Czech government has been trying to find a way to manage the gambling industry for years now. Various proposals that would regulate both online and real-world gambling have been approved, struck down or amended to the point where nobody is really sure what will happen next.
The good news is that things are quite a bit simpler for players. Despite the ever-changing legal environment and inability to obtain licenses, most of Europe’s top online gambling brands accept players from the Czech Republic. Just visit the following link to see which sites I recommend to all our Czech readers.
Read more: Czech Republic
Belgium: Our Belgian readers are fortunate to have a government that does not seek to prohibit online gambling. Instead, lawmakers have a licensing system in place that allows companies to gain approval to host real money games over the internet. Authorities very strictly enforce the country’s gaming laws to the point where they have stated that they may actually prosecute citizens who choose to play at unlicensed betting sites.
Read more: Belgium
Croatia: The legal situation in Croatia is very positive for players. You have many options including local licensed operators and major European betting sites based out of other countries. There are no laws against playing online even if you end up choosing a site that does not hold a Croatian gambling license.
Read more: Croatia
Albania: Currently, online gambling is neither legal nor illegal in Albania. The country does not have any sort of licensing system or approval process in place so there are no expressly legal betting sites in the country. However, there appear to be no laws that criminalize the act of going online and placing bets at any of the many foreign operators that accept Albanians.
Read more: Albania
Slovenia: Online betting sites are largely unregulated in Slovenia. There are rumors that the law may be changing in the near future, but for now you’re free to play wherever you want. The main thing you should be aware of as a player is the importance of choosing a safe place to play. See the link below to see which sites I recommend.
Read more: Slovenia
Latvia: Latvia does have a licensing process in place for gaming sites, but excessive fees make it a burden for most operators considering the country just barely tops two million residents. Most international betting websites simply accept customers without the proper licensing. This is not necessarily a bad thing for you, but you should exercise a little caution in choosing where to do business.
Read more: Latvia
Lithuania: Outdated gaming laws make no mention of online gambling, but the government takes the position that it is illegal to organize games of chance online. The law makes no mention of playing online, so Lithuanians are generally free to bet online wherever they want. The president has recently expressed a desire to regulate the industry, but nothing has come of that yet. For now, feel free to play online wherever you want.
Read more: Lithuania
Estonia: After relaxing its gaming laws several years back, Estonia has become an attractive market for gambling operators. A sensible licensing process and decent tax rate have led some of the world’s largest names to set up shop in Estonia. If you’re interested in doing some online betting from Estonia, you have plenty of reputable providers to choose from.
Read more: Estonia
Slovakia: Online betting is legal and regulated on paper, but the Slovakian government has yet to issue any licenses to operators. Despite a lack of licensed providers, there are no laws that restrict citizens from playing at any of the major foreign operators that accept customers from the country.
Read more: Slovakia
Iceland: Online gambling is restricted in Iceland, but there are no laws that prohibit individual players from signing up and placing bets over the internet. I know of at least one major betting site that accepts króna deposits and several others that have processes in place to complete currency exchanges on your behalf. We’ve been hearing rumors for years that lawmakers have plans to update the country’s gaming laws, but nothing has come of that yet.
Read more: Iceland
Greenland: The gaming laws of Greenland would appear to be very positive for the industry thanks to a reasonable tax rate and licensing process. However, many gaming sites have done the math and find it unprofitable to jump through the necessary hoops just to serve a nation with such a small population. Some betting sites continue to accept Greenlandic players without the proper license while others have left the market altogether.
Read more: Greenland
Luxembourg: Gambling laws dating back to 1977 do not specifically mention online gambling, but they do very clearly outlaw all forms of gaming that are not expressly legal. However, there are no laws against merely playing online as a player and the government has so far made no attempt to censor the internet or prevent players from making deposits. The end result is a healthy but untaxed industry dominated by major foreign European betting sites.
Read more: Luxembourg
Belarus: The Belarusian government is very hostile to online gambling. Players caught patronizing betting websites are subject to hefty fines and the government is noted for internet censorship and monitoring. It’s so bad that homeowners are even held responsible for internet use by their guests. Despite these risks, almost all the world’s major brands openly accept customers from Belarus.
Read more: Belarus
Best Betting Sites to Play in Euros
Most of the major Europe betting sites of the world are headquartered in countries where the euro is a part of life. Even sites based out of the UK make it a point to offer full euro support for their large numbers of European players. Any site serious about succeeding on the international stage must cater to those who wager in euros.
This is good news because if the euro is your currency of choice, it means you have access to some of the best names in all of gambling. There are literally dozens of sites at your disposal that you can visit, join and play at for real money. The only thing you need to do is choose the one that best suits your needs as a gambler.
The euro is such a widespread currency that there is absolutely no need to deal with the hassle that comes with playing at a site that doesn’t support euros. There are plenty of reputable gambling sites that are perfectly capable of accepting deposits, processing payouts and hosting games in euros.
Our top-ranked sites provide full support of the euro. They don’t just let you deposit in euros and then make you wager in dollars; they actually support the euro all the way through. You can bet on sports, play casino games and join multi-player poker tables all in euros. Never once are you asked to run through an expensive foreign exchange conversion.
It is immensely helpful to play at a site that supports your currency because doing so eliminates the annoyance of switching around between currencies. The fees associated with frequent currency exchanges add up over time. There’s no point in subjecting your bankroll to that burden when you have so many high quality options out there.
On top of that, it is much more convenient to be able to actually place your bets in euros. I’ve played at sites in the past in which I had to place wagers in a different currency than the one to which I’m accustomed. I found it exhausting to constantly run quick calculations in my head to make sure I was actually betting the amount I intended to bet.
An additional side-benefit to playing at betting sites that accept euros is the trust factor. The European region as a whole is tightly regulated, and euro-friendly sites are usually hosted in places with strict licensing requirements. For example, you’ll find that all the largest, most well-known euro sites are licensed by the UK’s Gambling Commission.
Make Sure You Play with Trusted Names
Above, I stated that most euro betting sites are headquartered in regulated countries. The key word there is “most.” Just because a site accepts euros, that doesn’t automatically guarantee that it is a safe place to play online. For the sake of your money, always stick with the big names in the business. See the top-list at the top of this page for examples of trusted names.
Euro Deposit Methods
The euro is unique in how widespread it is and in how many different countries it is used. The best betting sites take this into account and provide a unique set of deposit methods catered to each country from which they accept customers.
Deposit methods such as Neteller and Skrill are fairly widespread and most of you can use those to fund your betting accounts with euros. In addition to international deposit methods, you may also find specialized options for players specifically in your country.
For example, players in the UK can use certain types of instant bank transfers and Ukash for quick and safe transactions. There’s also Przelewy in Poland, POLi in Australia/New Zealand, WebMoney in Russia and SOFORT in Germany, just to name a few. The options will vary based on your location and where you play online, but you’ll find something that works well as long as you always stick with reputable gambling sites.
Take a look at our banking guide for more information about the actual process of making a deposit and getting paid.