Online casinos are legal in Austria. However, this market is one of the most regulated in the world. The cornerstone of Austrian gambling is the Austrian Gambling Act. It features several significant provisions that shape how the industry functions.
This page looks into the ins and outs of Austrian gambling laws. Who are the gambling regulators? Why is it that not all casinos operate in the country? Are there any specific licenses? We’re going to cover all that.
Who regulates gambling in Austria?
The Law on Games of Chance is the primary legislation that controls internet gambling in the nation. Most people call it "GSpG" for short. Besides that, the Austrian Tax Office is in charge of collecting gambling taxes. It also does the following:
Analyze and evaluate the dangers of finance terrorism and money laundering.
Determine the frequency and extent of off-site and on-site inspections of the concessionaires' properties based on their risk profile.
Review the concessionaires' risk profile for money laundering and financing terrorism. This includes the dangers of breaking applicable laws on a routine basis.
Consider the discretions that concessionaires are granted and thoroughly examine the risk assessments that support those discretions.
Why Few Casinos Operate in Austria
Here’s why not all casinos operate in Austria: To operate gambling activities legally in Austria, operators must meet several standards. First, they must be local operators. Their only source of income should be from within the nation.
Second, they shouldn't target the foreign market. Instead, they just promote their products to Austrians. This is the case despite Austria being a component of the wider European Economic Area.
There has been back and forth regarding these laws. Many people believe they are outdated and need amendment. According to the Austrian government, though, it is much easier to monitor and audit local businesses to ensure that they are abiding by national legislation. For multinational corporations based elsewhere in the world, this is not possible.
The Illegality of Banning Offshore Casinos in Austria
In 2010, a complaint against Engelmann was brought before the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU). It stated that such establishment restrictions virtually violate EU legislation of freedom of movement.
During the Pfleger Case in 2014, additional criticism of the inconsistent nature of Austrian gaming legislation was levelled. The CJEU expressly drew attention to its violation of international EU regulations. It demanded significant changes before Austria continued enforcing them.
To address the issue and restore order to the sector, The Federal Ministry for Science, Research, and Economics created the Vienna Betting Act in November 2015. It then forwarded it to the European Commission. The goal was to enforce consumer rights and stop unlawful business activities in Vienna.
Also, the proposal aimed to replace the obsolete Act on Charges for Totalisator and Bookmaker Betting. After going through the proposal, the European Commission pronounced it to be legal and compliant with their regulatory policy. Austria then refocused on legalizing online gambling sports betting, purely per the preexisting Gambling Act.
In March 2018, Austria released the most recent draft proposal for changing the Gambling Act. The Ministry of Finance planned to implement IP tracking and blocking for unlawful gambling operations. The aim was to shield its citizens from such businesses. Furthermore, under such legal laws, people aggrieved by the unlawful offshore operators would be allowed to seek compensation.
Why are some casinos with Curacao or MGA licenses operating there while others are blocked?
The Austrian gambling monopoly has always been an issue in the EU, and even the highest legal authorities in the region have not yet solved the puzzle. While we leave that to them, we can’t help but notice some casinos with Curacao or MGA licenses operating in the country. Why is that so?
There can only be one explanation. It’s either they are operating illegally, or they have a separate license from the Austrian government. As a player, you really can’t tell the difference. Most of these casinos will only list the MGA or Curacao license on their websites, but you’ll hardly come across one that lists the Austrian license. In that case, we advise that you stick to locally licensed casinos.
Every local provider of gambling services in Austria must have a valid license from the government. Without it, you are conducting business inside the nation illegally. That means all independent slot machines and sports betting operators must apply for licenses from the regional provincial authorities.
Notably, the national government has a monopoly on all lottery games and controls their licensing and management. Osterreichische Lotteries GmbH is the only company in the country that operates the lottery. It got authorization in 2012, with the license being valid for 15 years.
Usually, the government grants licenses for lotteries through a transparent tendering process. Before anything else, each bidder must fulfil certain requirements.
One such requirement is that an applicant must be based in the EU or EEA to be eligible for slot machines outside of casinos. Additionally, the candidate must be a business with a supervisory board. They must also meet certain stock capital criteria and have an Austrian-registered office.
Section 5 of the GSpG provides a framework for regulating the use of slot machines outside of casinos. The availability of licenses for gaming halls (Automatensalon) or single line-up (Einzelaufstellung), however, is a matter for each Bundesland to decide.
More importantly, there are no quantitative constraints on the availability of betting licenses. In general, after meeting all legal conditions, applicants can hold a gaming license.
License Application, Fees, and Penalties
The Austrian Tax Office is required to grant casinos and lotteries licenses based on an open and public bidding process. Applicants must meet the licensing requirements in Sections 14 for lottery licenses or Sections 21 GSpG for casino licenses.
The license application fee is €10,000, with the license fee standing at €100,000. An operator must pay the fees to the Austrian Tax Office via bank transfer, stating the purpose of payment. Once the Austrian Tax Office collects the fees, it submits them to the Federal government.
If the licensee violates GSpG rules or administrative authorities' laws, the authority may revoke the license for a casino or lottery. This may also come with fines of up to EUR 22,000. But the license is only revoked as a last resort in cases where all other measures, like ad sanctions, have failed. The same essentially holds for sports betting licences under the laws of Bundesländer. What’s more, authorities have the right to seize slot machines that are being used against the law, as stated in Section 53 GSpG.
One more thing: A license revocation decision made by the licensing authority may be challenged in a federal administrative court (Bundesverwaltungsgericht). If it’s about the cancellation of a sports betting or slot machine license, a Regional Administrative Court (Landesverwaltungsgericht) can handle that.
Popular Legal Casinos in Austria
The Austrian casino industry, one of the biggest in the nation, is where you can find the majority of local operators. It is the gambling product that most people choose. Unlike the lottery, casinos are not monopolized. This gives Austrians more options when choosing their preferred legal casino.
2.6 million people visit Austria's casinos each year. The major gambling establishments with the most visits are:
According to the Gambling Act, all casinos in Austria must set gaming regulations. They should post all the rules so that they’re available to casino visitors. The regulations for participation and play must specifically include the following:
Conditions for entry
Basically, here’s what you need to know before visiting the best legal physical casinos in Austria:
The top Austrian land-based casinos offer free entry
To play, you must be at least 18 years old and have a legitimate ID
Most establishments have a semi-formal dress requirement, and men must wear a jacket
Opening hours vary.
Gambling, online or physically, is completely legal in Austria. However, operators must be locally licensed and operate from within the nation. As a player, the government has put measures to keep you safe when gambling online. One of these is blocking illegal offshore casinos. While it can be difficult for you to identify rogue gambling sites, the government has all the resources to help. And they’ve stepped up, which makes Austria one of the best countries for payer protection.