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Posted on: 14 May, 2021

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Gambling Regulations for Online Casinos in Austria

Austria, like many European countries, has a love affair with gambling. However, while other nations have a relatively open market, Austria has been operating a monopoly for over a decade. When it comes to online gambling, the laws are a bit murky, but recent legislative attempts illustrate that the government is trying to bring the country into the modern era. 

So, with that in mind, we're going to take a closer look at the gambling regulations for Austria and what they mean for the future of gaming within the European nation. 

A Brief History of Online Gambling in Austria

Since Austria has such a long and captivating past, its history with gambling goes all the way back to the 17th century and the Holy Roman Empire. At the time, gambling was regulated to games of chance, such as dice-throwing, but it was quite popular among the lower classes (i.e., farmers). 

King Leopold the First enacted the first gambling law in Austria in 1696. There were two goals of that initial legislation. First, all unregulated gambling could be prosecuted. Second, it allowed the government to start issuing licenses and get in on the action. Throughout the 1700s and 1800s, gambling only increased in popularity. At first, it was seen as a low-class experience, but the wealthy elite, including the reigning Hapsburg family, eventually caught on. 

By 1912, the first state class lottery was introduced, which still occurs to this day. Class lotteries operate differently from traditional lotteries. The original Austrian lottery of 1751 (aka the Genova Lottery) picked five numbers out of 90. Class lotteries, however, would pick winners of different “classes” that would then compete for the main event. Both lotteries are still running and highly popular among Austrians. 

Of course, Austria was an integral part of World War 1 and 2, meaning that there were some turbulent times between 1914 and 1945. Although gambling was fully legal by the 1930s (the first casinos opened in 1934), the Second World War interrupted expansion and legalization. Then, during the Russian occupation, gambling started to become more legalized. 

It wasn't until the mid-90s and the fall of the Berlin Wall that Austria could expand its casinos and gambling operations. Casino Baden was renovated and built up during this decade to make it the largest casino in Europe. 

When it comes to online gambling, Austria passed the Law on Games of Chance (GSpG) in 1989. At the time, it only referred to land-based casinos, but its rules applied to online gaming sites as well. One notable distinction within the law is between “proper” and “small” gambling. We'll get into these differences in the next section, but this part of the law allowed gaming to expand rapidly throughout the country, both online and in-person. 

In 2010, the state amended the GSpG to allow for 15 casino licenses. However, while only 12 were issued to Casinos Austria, a government-run company, the other three were contested, and those casinos never came to fruition. 

Currently, all gambling in Austria is state-run, making it something of a monopoly. The European Union has challenged this system, saying that it goes against the EU's rules, but so far, no sweeping changes have happened. 

Here is a rundown of important dates related to Austrian gambling: 

  • 1696 – The first gambling law is passed by Leopold I, which outlaws unregulated betting. 
  • 1751 – The government takes over the Genova Lottery. 
  • 1913 – The first “class” lottery is formed. 
  • 1934 – The first casinos open in Austria. 
  • 1989 – The Law on Games of Chance (GSpG) is passed. 
  • 2010 – The GSpG is amended to allow for 15 casino licenses, 12 of which go to Casinos Austria. 
  • 2017 – A new amendment is proposed to ban Austrians from accessing or playing at foreign-run online casinos. Although there has been discussion about this amendment, it has not taken effect as of 2021. 

Is Online Gambling Legal in Austria?

Yes, you can gamble online in Austria. However, there's a difference between casino gambling, slots, and sports betting. As we mentioned, Austrian law differentiates between small betting, “Kleines Glücksspiel,” and proper betting. 

Proper gambling has no limit, while small betting is strictly regulated and capped. Currently, the law extends from land-based to online casinos. This extension means that Casinos Austria operates an online casino and that smaller operators can offer small-bet slot machines online. 

While the main gambling websites are run by either the federal or provincial governments, Austrians can still play at online casinos based outside the country. While that ruling may change in the near future, Austrian residents shouldn't worry about prosecution or jail time for betting at a non-Austrian casino. 

Gambling Regulations for Online Casinos Austria

Here is an overview of regulations regarding casinos, slots, and sports betting. 

The Law on Games of Chance

Although this law was passed in 1989, it was amended in 2010 to better address issues of online gambling and gambling addiction. Before these updates, Austria had a bad reputation of being more friendly to the casinos than the players. Since gaming is all run through the state monopoly, the government wanted to earn more money while prohibiting outside interests. 

One of the main provisions of the GSpG is the distinction between proper and small betting. Proper betting happens at licensed casinos, and there are no restrictions on bet sizes or the games that can be played. Currently, Casinos Austria and Lotteries Austria operate all proper online gaming through the website Win2Day. 

When it comes to small betting, operators have to follow strict rules, including: 

  • Max Bets – The previous max bet was 50 cents, but it has been increased to 1 Euro for small betting houses and 10 Euros for larger gambling salons. 
  • Max Machines – The law states that all in-person gambling salons can have a max of 50 machines. 
  • Time Frame – Players can only make small bets for up to three hours. Slot machines have to shut off automatically after two hours of uninterrupted play to help enforce this rule. 

Another provision of the updated GSpG (from 2010) stipulates that poker is now considered a game of chance. Before 2013, poker houses and websites did not fall under the GSpG's jurisdiction. The Ministry of Finance, which is in charge of enforcing the law, grandfathered most poker rooms and allowed them to operate until 2020. As of 2021, the only place to play poker is at a licensed casino, either in-person or online. 

Bundesländer – Provincial Regulations

There are nine Austrian provinces, each of which has unique gambling laws that exist outside of the GSpG. Since the Law on Games of Chance doesn't address games of skill, each province can set its own rules and regulations. Most notably, sports betting is regulated at the local level. Here is a rundown of how each province handles sports betting, both online and in-person. 

  • Burgenland – No restrictions on sports betting
  • Carinthia – No betting on criminal activity, although deaths and injuries seem to be fair game. Live betting options only include halftime and end scores and the next goal for soccer and ice hockey. All betting terminals are shut off between 2 a.m. and 8 a.m. 
  • Lower Austria – No restrictions. 
  • Salzburg – No bets on death, injury, animal races, or amateur sports. Bets are maxed at 500 Euros. Live betting follows the same rules as Carinthia and no time limits. 
  • Styria – No bets on death, injury, or virtual events. Same live betting rules as Carinthia, but no time limits. 
  • Tirol – The only restriction is that betting has to take place between 6 a.m. and midnight. Some international events like the Olympics can extend this time limit. 
  • Upper Austria – Bet limit of 500 Euros and a time limit of 6 a.m. to midnight. No bets on death or injury, but live betting rules are the same as Carinthia. 
  • Vienna – A 6 a.m. to midnight betting limit, and no bets on deaths, injuries, and animal events. Carinthian live betting rules. 
  • Vorarlberg – Same restrictions as Tirol. 

Since the GSpG does not regulate online sports betting, residents can often skirt provincial rules by visiting websites outside their jurisdiction. It's hard for police to intervene in these activities, and there are no reports of substantial crackdowns on the practice. 

Online Gambling Authorities for Austria

Currently, the Ministry of Finance is in charge of issuing casino licenses and enforcing the rules of the GSpG. However, as recently as 2020, the current Finance Minister has proposed creating an independent regulatory authority for all casinos within the country. It's unclear whether this proposal will gain any traction in the coming years, but it's possible, particularly given how the European Union is trying to break up the state monopoly. 

Right now, the Ministry of Finance has only issued licenses to Lotteries Austria and Casinos Austria and doesn't seem to have any intention of licensing any foreign entities. The law stipulates that all casino operators have to be based within the country. Since Casinos Austria has a stranglehold on the industry, it's unlikely that other companies will be able to gain a foothold. 

As we mentioned, Austrians can still gamble at foreign-based online casinos, despite a proposal to block any unlicensed IP addresses. Technically, that means that Austrians can play at any casino, even if it isn't licensed by a regulatory authority. However, it's never a good idea to bet real money at an unlicensed casino since there is no legal recourse to avoid fraud and criminal behavior. 

That said, there are multiple gaming authorities within Europe that oversee online gambling. Here is an overview of the top gambling commissions in the region. 

  • UK Gambling Commission – This agency regulates all online casinos within the UK and is a leader within the industry. 
  • Malta Gaming Authority – Established in 2000, MGA licenses are some of the hardest to get. Any casino with an MGA license is likely more secure than others. 
  • Gibraltar Regulatory Authority – Over 30 online casinos call Gibraltar home, thanks to the GRA's low tax rate and loose restrictions. However, the GRA is well-respected within the industry. 

Gambling Addiction Resources in Austria

Until the change to the GSpG in 2010, the Austrian government was less concerned about responsible gambling and treating addiction. Since the update, the Ministry of Finance created a staff unit to help combat addiction. The goals of this unit include: 

  • Putting more research into gambling addiction and treatment options. 
  • Educating the public about the dangers of gambling addiction. 
  • Generating best practices for online and in-person casinos to identify and treat problem gamblers. 

Online player protections were also developed as a result of the 2010 law change. Win2Day is the only licensed online casino in Austria, and it provides some tools to help prevent addiction. First, players must be 18 to create an account. Second, each player has to set a daily betting and time limit. While individuals can adjust these limits, any increases don't take effect for 72 hours, while decreases are implemented immediately. 

The website also sets a weekly spend limit for all players, regardless of their individual settings. 

Other gambling addiction resources for Austrians include: 

This website offers information on problem gambling and allows players to make appointments at the center in Vienna. Spielsuchthilfe was established in 1982 and has helped thousands of gambling addicts find the path to recovery. 

Gamblers Anonymous – Austria

This international group has meetings and offices in Austria. You can visit their website to find out more. 

This website is an excellent resource for players, including those who aren't addicted to gaming. Individuals can find out more about gambling laws in the country, as well as player protections for casinos, online betting, and sports betting.

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