The European iGaming market remains one of the most open and lucrative in the world, with intercountry collaboration enabling brands to operate in various jurisdictions across the continent.
Despite this, however, there's no single regulatory body that holds sway over the European market, and this can create issues in terms of maintaining industry standards and effectively safeguarding players in specific countries and EU member states.
This could well change in 2019, with Maarten Haijer (the current Director General of the European Gaming and Betting Association) for iGaming in the continent. But how else is the iGaming landscape likely to change in Europe this year, and how will these developments impact on the marketplace
The Rise of Online Bingo in Italy and Mainland Europe
Online bingo accounts for a relatively small part of the GGY in the UK, generating just 3.5% of total revenues in 2017. It remains a more a prominent part of the iGaming landscape in other European nations, however, and this may have something to do with its origins as .
In fact, the latest EU nation to fully embrace online bingo is Italy, where licensees have been offered the chance to add a host of bingo variations to their product offerings.
This represents the final piece of the jigsaw in terms of Italian regulatory framework, as protocol previously prevented gambling brands from marketing bingo games and diversifying their games' libraries accordingly.
Most recently, the world's leading omni-channel gaming firm (Playtech) has announced that it will finally launch its expanded bingo platform in Italy, through collaborations with the Sisal, William Hill and Snai brands.
To allow for this, Italian regulators have introduced the updated protocol PBAD3, which will fully authorise operators to offer online bingo variants to players. Not only this, but these iterations will also be available across an array of platforms, namely HTML5 desktop, mobile clients and iOS and Android native apps.
Going forward, this may also enable brands across Europe to target the online bingo audience in Italy. As a result, many of the trusted brands featured on could potentially market themselves to Italian players, depending on the UK's future relationship with the EU and the fall-out from Brexit.
The Liberalisation of Markets in Sweden and the Netherlands
A couple of European markets are also set to enjoy considerable liberalisation in the next 12 months, with these processes having begun in earnest at the beginning of 2019.
One of these markets belongs to Sweden, who on January 1st sought to open up its licensing applications to operators from all over the world. At the same time, Swedish operators can continue to target audiences in other European markets, subject to the correct licensing and accreditations.
Historically, regulators in Sweden had only enabled domestic brands to operate nationwide, but this approach has inhibited the success of these providers and the nation's market as a whole.
The reason for this is simple; as the restricted range of games, operators and terms available in Sweden has encouraged a growing number of players to register with online casinos based elsewhere in Europe.
By liberalising the market and correcting this imbalance, however, it can now thrive whilst allowing the government to benefit from an 18% standard tax on commercial gaming.
The Dutch market has followed a similar path so far in 2019, with the Netherlands moving away from being monopolised by the government-backed Holland Casino. After years of being reluctant to facilitate the rise of online casinos, Holland has gradually begun to change its stance and draft legislation that will open up the market to trusted international operators.
The nation is a little behind Sweden in its attempts to liberalise its iGaming market, however, with the relevant Remote Gaming Bill having taking years to progress through Parliament and not expected to trigger affirmative changes until 2020 at the earliest.
However, the wheels have clearly been set in motion, and there's no doubt that the Netherlands will soon be part of a controlled but liberalised market in Europe.
A Clampdown in More Established Markets
For years now, the UK and Italy have dominated the European market in terms of iGaming GGY and regulatory robustness.
However, while other markets have reached the stage where they're ready to grow and diversify their interests, these two entities have arguably reached saturation points and regulators are now turning their attentions towards restricting usage and implementing more stringent guidelines.
The UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) has made the protection of underage and vulnerable gamblers one of its core strategic objectives through 2021, for example, while also implementing a raft of measures that streamline withdrawal processes, verify players' identity quicker and prohibit the use of credit cards to make deposits.
Both the UK and Italy have recently scheduled increases in the tax levies faced by iGaming operators, with the latter's Remote Gaming Duty (RGD) set to rise by 6% to 21% in October of this year. Conversely, Italy recently increased the levy placed on gross gaming revenue derived from virtual casino gameplay and online bingo by 5%, with this figure now fixed at a relatively prohibitive 25%.
This is part of a natural cycle in the iGaming sector, of course, but these regulatory and legislative measures have arguably come at the worst time given the pressures being created by Brexit. However, there's no doubt that well-regulated markets are often the most lucrative, while stringent rules are crucial if you're to successfully liberalise domestic operations.
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