Unlike the United States, most European countries have adopted regulations for online sports betting and provide a legal and safe environment for their citizens. The European Union is much more progressive when it comes to Internet gaming compared to other parts of the world, which has allowed the activity to flourish.
EU member states account for about 45% of the total amount wagered worldwide. The online betting industry as a whole is worth about $33 billion worldwide, which means European gamblers are making up about $14.85 billion of the global online wagering market, making them the largest regulated market in the world.
While some member states were quicker to adopt online gambling regulations than others, the EU government has strict laws governing free competition between EU countries and their citizens.
For awhile, many countries virtually ignored these free-trade and commerce laws. Instead, they legalized online betting in their own countries while outlawing or advising players to steer clear of foreign operators, therefore enforcing a state-run monopoly.
Blocking other EU member states from offering online betting services to citizens in the country where the activity is legal breaks European law. The European Commission has fined many states and forced them into compliance over the years.
However, countries like France and the Netherlands are still very much monopolistic compared to other states, which allow citizens to wager at any licensed gambling site in the EU. As of 2014, there are still ongoing legal battles in regards to this issue.
Even with the free trade and competition laws on the books, it’s important to remember that each country still has their set of regulations and licensing requirements. Tax rates will vary as well.
Overall, just about every member state in the EU has some form of legal online gambling. The vast majority offer legal online sports betting.
More importantly, they offer better consumer protections compared to any other bodies in the world. If a player has a dispute with a gaming operator, their local gambling regulators will work on the player’s behalf to make sure the player is treated fairly. They will also keep an eye on fraud and theft accusations by unscrupulous or rogue online gambling sites.
This is a luxury that bettors in countries where online betting is deemed illegal or even in a legal grey area won’t be afforded. If they have a dispute with an operator, they are still at the mercy of the site that holds their funds. There’s virtually nothing they can do from a legal standpoint.
It should be no surprise that European bookmakers focus heavily on soccer. It’s the most-popular sport in the world and Europe. Soccer will have the largest number of betting options and a vast selection of markets.
The most-popular soccer leagues in Europe are the English Premier League, the Spanish La Liga, the Italian Serie A, the German Bundesliga, and the French Ligue 1. The Champions League, along with international competitions, such as the Euro Cup and World Cup, also attract the masses.
Bookmakers will take the lion’s share of their action on soccer matches or as it’s known in Europe, football. Their lines will be quite sharp on soccer markets because of the amount of action they take.
Soccer is the most-viewed sport in just about every region in Europe, perhaps with a small caveat for Scandinavian countries where ice hockey has a narrow lead over soccer in popularity. Behind hockey and soccer, basketball is a distant third in popularity but has grown tremendously in the past decade. Other team sports popular throughout Europe are rugby, handball, water polo, field hockey, and more.
Individual sports are also popular. Cycling, along with various forms of auto racing, like Formula One and motorcycle racing, have a strong following. Tennis and golf also have many events that take place in Europe.
There are many region- or country-specific sports as well. Ireland’s Gaelic games and the game of shinty in Scotland are two examples.
European bookmakers don’t stop with Euro-centric sports, however. They have odds available for just about every sport in the world. American football, the NFL, and other professional leagues are widely available.
Aside from living in a mostly liberalized online betting market, Europeans will be able to be able to benefit from some tax incentives if they play at EU-licensed and EU-based sites.
The market in Europe breeds a lot of competition between bookmakers, and this allows bettors to cash in on a number of promotions, including deposit bonuses, reloads, free bet offers, and VIP programs. This makes line shopping much easier and allows gamblers to have a variety of choices when finding the best price.
Europeans have an enormous list of deposit and withdrawal options. Many bookmakers offer a dozen or more choices, and it’s extremely rare that a player will have to pay a fee for depositing or withdrawing their funds.
E-wallets like Neteller and MoneyBookers are the most widely used methods by players, but bettors from some countries will also be able to use PayPal as well. Credit and debit cards are also a convenient form of deposit. There are a host of other options, including bank wires, checks, and local payment options. There’s an option for everyone.
Withdrawals are processed back to players using the same method they used to deposit. For instance, if a player deposits via Neteller, his withdrawal requests will be sent back to his Neteller account. This is the default method that most bookmakers use for withdrawals.
Almost every method of withdrawal is processed free of charge. Speeds vary depending on the sportsbook, but few sites take longer than 2–3 business days to process payouts to Neteller or MoneyBookers.
Europe has long been ahead of other parts of the world in their acceptance of online gambling, especially the United States and Asia. They are at the forefront for innovation in online gambling markets, not only European online gaming markets, but those internationally as well.