European Poker Sites – List of poker sites for players from the EU
The European Union (EU) has massive influence over the rules and regulations of the online gambling industry, including online poker across the continent. One might assume that with such an organisation, the laws regarding online poker in the 28 (soon to be 27) countries would be uniform. It isn’t, though.
In fact, each country has its own laws and interpretations regarding online poker and other gambling games, and this can make things rather more complex than they ought to be.
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The Big Question: Can I Play Online Poker in Europe?
Most European countries see the benefit in online gambling. This is a massive source of taxable revenue, and one which sees many European countries regulate and license their own poker sites. There are, of course, a handful of the 58 countries which make up Europe (including some of the 28 in the European Union) which do not play ball, though.
In theory, the European Union should regulate all aspects of the poker and gambling industry for its member states. Several leading EU countries, such as Belgium, France, Germany, Italy and Spain don’t see eye to eye with those EU regulations, though, and have chosen to implement their own gambling laws, much to the fury of the EU. Britain on the other hand will soon be leaving the EU, and as one of the bloc’s most liberal and gambling loving countries leaves, that presents a whole new set of complications for the gambling sector in Europe.
At present, the EU has been trying in vain to get a strict set of regulations implemented across the entire bloc, but that has proven more difficult than they expect. Again, in theory, an online poker room which is licensed out of one of the 28-member states should be entitled to offer their services to players in all member states. That sounds lovely, but some countries (such as Belgium) will only permit their nationals to play in state-licensed poker rooms – the headache is endless.
With most European countries wanting to maintain their own tight grip on gambling laws, many of these issues are going to have to be settled in the European Courts. This is a nightmare scenario for many, but despite this, most players in European countries are free to gamble at online poker sites all the same.
EU Poker Laws, Rules and Regulations
If the EU regulations on poker sites are not being implemented, then we need to look at each European state’s gambling laws individually to get a clearer picture of the scenario, or at least, most of the major countries’ laws.
- The UK: There’s no issue here at present. Provided a poker site is licensed by the UKGC (UK Gambling Commission), players can play there. However, the UK does not prohibit its players from playing at other EU-licensed poker rooms, either.
- Austria: Austrian’s are free to play at state-owned poker rooms and casinos, and although they aren’t supposed to, this free access to other EU poker rooms for any player who wishes to play elsewhere.
- Belgium: Belgium is one of the tougher countries when it comes to online poker laws. Only Belgian Gambling Commission licensed poker rooms can offer their services to players, and a tough blacklist demands that ISPs block access to all gambling sites which aren’t in possession of one.
- France: Players in France are permitted to bet on poker games online, but only at poker rooms which have attained a 5-year ARJEL license (from France).
- Germany: Germany prohibits online poker rooms unless you happen to be residing in Schleswig-Holstein. The licenses issued by Schleswig-Holstein permit gambling at poker rooms until the licenses expire in 2018. Later this year, it is likely that all forms of gambling (including poker) are likely to be made illegal under a federal law in Germany. This puts the country at great odds with the European Union.
- Ireland: Irish players are, in theory, supposed to visit Irish licensed poker rooms, although there are no laws to prohibit players trying their hand at other EU-licensed poker rooms.
- Italy: Any poker room which holds a license issued by the AAMS (Autonomous Administration of State Monopolies) is authorised to offer poker games to players in Italy.
- Netherlands: Gambling at poker rooms in The Netherlands is legal. A monopoly is in place on Dutch poker rooms, and despite some blacklisted of foreign poker rooms, by and large, Dutch players are free to play abroad.
- Portugal: Portuguese players can play at any poker room which holds a license from the SCML (Santa Casa de Misericordia de Lisboa). Initially, any poker room could apply for such a license, but lately, the commission has been ensuring that only Portuguese poker rooms obtain a license, in a bid to drive Portuguese players to national poker rooms.
- Russia: You can forget about online poker gaming in Russia. The country blacklists most gambling sites, and very few Russian land-based casinos exist at all. VPNs will get you around most of the blockade, though. Russian is not a member of the EU.
- Spain: The General Directorate for the Regulation of Gambling Activities authorises Spanish poker rooms the right to offer their services to Spanish players. However, Spain discourages Spanish players from playing at non-Spanish poker rooms.
- Sweden: Gambling is legal in Sweden, and although the Swedes would like their players to play at state-licensed poker rooms, they make no attempt to dissuade players from playing at other EU poker sites. In fact, if the poker room is licensed (with any kind of license) Sweden doesn’t seem to mind, making it one of the most liberal poker playing countries.
- Switzerland: Not an EU member, but Switzerland games of chance can be played in brick-and-mortar casinos. Switzerland doesn’t offer licenses, and doesn’t block access to offshore poker rooms, but they don’t like it. There are promising signs that Switzerland will regulate and therefore make online gaming legal in the next few years.
As for the other European countries, their gambling laws and online poker laws are just a muddled and mixed as the bigger nations which are mentioned above.
EU Poker Licence Authorities
Once again, if the EU law was accepted in all European Union member states, then any poker room which carried a license from one of the licensing jurisdictions inside the union would be able to offer their services to players in any other EU country. This is still a long way from being realised, though.
Malta, Gibraltar and the United Kingdom are the main licensing jurisdictions in the European Union. A good rule of thumb is that if a poker room is licensed by one of the these three, you can bet that it is safe to play there.
Most EU countries which have legalised poker rooms have their own licensing commissions, though, and if you’re playing in a national poker room with a national license, there’s no danger.
Popular Poker Games in the EU
Everything and anything. All the world’s leading casino software providers are in operation in Europe, and so European players (provided that can access poker rooms) can play every major poker game devised for the online gambling sector. Many of these are live dealer and mobile games, although countless variants are also there for you to play. Top titles include:
- Casino Hold ‘em
- Draw and Stud poker
- Red Dog Poker
- Cyberstud Poker
Entering the WSOP (World Series of Poker) from satellite tournaments and competitions isn’t really to do with which country you play in. It is to do with the size, popularity and reputation of the poker site you play at. Provided you are playing at a major poker site licensed out of a respectable jurisdiction, you’ve got a good shot at making that happen.
As well as those games mentioned above, it is also possible for European poker players to get to grips with mobile and live dealer poker games, too, with the list of titles in these genres almost endless.
European Online Poker Promos and Bonuses
Every major poker room which accepts players from Europe is likely to carry promotions and bonuses for you to claim, too. Of course, the EU is no big fan of false advertising, and there are numerous campaigns about right now to try and cut down the amount of nonsense which appears in promos and bonuses – the UK is making big strides in this sector. You can claim a plethora of bonuses and promos when playing at poker sites in Europe, so there’s no danger there. Some of the many things you can expect to find include:
- Welcome bonuses and deposit bonuses
- Loyalty bonuses, refer-a-friend bonuses, VIP deals
- Daily, weekly, monthly specials
Depositing/Withdrawing Options Available To EU Players
Seemingly every major banking option can be used when playing poker online in Europe. You have your major credit cards, e-wallets and prepaid cards, but also bank transfers, wire transfers, and even snail-mail cheques if you wish.
Of course, not every option is open in each country (but most are), and deposits are usually free of charge in European licensed poker sites. Withdrawals are also often free, although each poker site may have minimum and maximum deposit/withdrawal limits.
The Future of Online Poker in the EU
In an ideal world, the European Union would come down hard on any member state that isn’t adhering to its policies on gambling. The EU wants to create a united front, where open markets and movement of goods allow players in any EU country to play at a poker room licensed out of any other EU country. That is the dream. There is going to be a long and hard-fought battle over this, and it will take many years. As for countries like Russia (outside of the EU and with its own laws) don’t expect their stance to change anytime soon.
Playing online poker in Europe is a very mixed bag. Some major poker playing countries permit players full access to poker games, and others take a more radical and limited approach. However, even those more limited countries are, on many occasions, far more accessible than elsewhere in the world. Europe is, therefore, most of the time, an online poker player’s haven.
FAQs You May Have About Online Poker in Europe
Europe is a collection of languages (and sometimes currencies). It is, therefore, ideal that you first play at a poker site which is legal in your country and offers a compatible language. Most European poker sites use the euro currency. Once this is done, check out its games, reputation and payment methods.
Because online poker is expertly regulated in Europe, a downed poker site is not as worrying as you might think. If your poker site is down, it doesn’t mean that it is closed. More likely, it is just experiencing downtime whilst it is upgraded, adapting to new regulations, or being maintained. Only if a poker site is down for over a week without warning should you be concerned.
That depends on what country you happen to be residing in. No European country punishes its players for gambling at an offshore poker room, so even if poker is illegal in your country, feel free to play at an offshore poker room – you won’t be punished for it. They only go after the operators.
Ordinarily, we would advise players to play at a poker room which is licensed out of the country they reside in. If this is not possible, we would look for a major poker website which is licensed out of one of the big neighbouring licensing jurisdictions, such as the UK, Gibraltar or Malta. Even if this fails, you can always play at proper offshore poker rooms, licensed out of Curacao, Costa Rica or Panama.
In many cases, a simple VPN (virtual private network) or proxy is enough to help European players get past some of the ISP (internet service provider) blocks that EU countries put in place to stop you from playing poker online.
Most of them do, yes. Poker schools are online courses, guides and tools to help newbies get into the game. Whilst many smaller-scale poker sites omit this essential practice, Europe offers the world’s biggest poker sites, and almost all of these offer this service to newbies in the online poker world.
Nobody knows right now. However, any deal between the UK and the EU is likely to take gambling into consideration. What will likely happen is that the UK Gambling Commission license will still be recognised by the European Union, provided EU citizens with access to UK poker rooms. This deal would possibly see the UK recognise similar licenses from EU member states. Alternatively, those UK poker rooms which want to keep offering their services to players in the EU would apply for a license from Malta, an EU member. Likewise, the EU poker rooms which want to keep offering their services to players in the UK would apply for a UKGC license.
Either way, we find it very doubtful that the major poker rooms are going to cut off a significant portion of their services to players in either the EU or the UK. Not when two very easy alternatives are available. In all honesty, you’d needn’t worry – this is unlikely to be an issue.