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Gambling games in EU


In most countries, there are a variety of lottery games, often depending on when the draw is made. The precise legal definitions can be found in the national reports.

Technically, a lottery is defined (in Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Estonia, France, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal and Slovakia) as a prize game in which an organiser accepts bets on the chances which several numbers have of being extracted at random from a defined series of numbers or symbols.

The winning numbers are determined by public draw. The prize money is divided into several winning categories and equally apportioned among the winners within each of these categories.

Some countries (Finland, Germany, Latvia) distinguish between cases in which the prize takes the form of money (e.g. Lotto) and those in which it takes the form of goods or services (e.g. a raffle).

Two countries (Cyprus and Sweden) include in this category raffles and games played at fairs or at amusement parks and also bingo and certain card and dice games.

Casino Gaming

Some Member States (Denmark, Finland, Ireland and the United Kingdom) have not directly defined the concept of casino gaming.

In several countries (Belgium, the Czech Republic, France, Luxembourg, Portugal and Slovakia), a casino is defined as a place where games of chance are organised (whether automatic or not) and where other cultural and social activities (theatre, restaurants) take place. In other countries (Austria, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Latvia, Malta, the Netherlands and Sweden), it is not necessary that the casino manage other social or cultural activities.

Two Member States (Cyprus and Ireland) entirely prohibit casino gaming.

Machine Gambling Outside Casinos

According to the laws of a number of Member States (Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Sweden), a slot machine is a mechanical, electronic or electric process that can result in the distribution of prize money or anything else of value, including a right or mechanism permitting free play on the machine. Success depends completely or predominantly on the coincidence and cannot be influenced by the player.

In Germany, there is a controversy as to whether machine gambling outside casinos is to be considered as a game of chance. In Austria (with the exception of the Bundesländer of Vienna, Styria and Carinthia) the operation outside casinos of gaming machines which offer cash prizes or merchandise is prohibited. All machine gambling is prohibited in Cyprus. In Greece and Portugal, machine gambling outside casinos is totally prohibited.


In many Member States (Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Estonia, France, Germany, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia and the United Kingdom (Great Britain)), ‘betting’ means making or taking a bet on – (a) the outcome of a race, competition or other event or process, (b) the likelihood of anything occurring or not occurring, or (c) whether anything is or is not true”.

It is considered (in Belgium, France, Luxembourg and Portugal) to be an aleatory contract by which the parties agree, with respect to a disputable assertion, that the party whose assertion is shown to be wrong shall perform something for the benefit of the other party or (in Latvia) a third person. According to German law, a bet originally aims at settling a controversy.

The amount of the prize can either depend on the total amount of the pre-paid stakes (i.e. the so-called “totalizator systems”, pari mutuel or “pool betting”) or on the stake-winnings ratio that is agreed between the bookmaker and the player (ie. pari à la cote or “fixed-odds betting”).

In general, “sports bets” are prize contests, whereby participants must predict the results of a sports competition (Austria, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Latvia, the Netherlands, Portugal and Sweden). There is considerable doubt as to whether betting on the outcome of horse races should be classified as sports betting; it clearly cannot be so classified in Finland, whereas in the Netherlands, it is classified as a special form of sports betting.


According to the laws of four Member States (Austria, Finland, Latvia and Malta), bingo is a game of chance, in which the player uses a scorecard or an electronic representation thereof bearing numbers and is played by marking or covering numbers identical to numbers drawn by chance, whether manually or electronically, and won by the player who first marks or covers the “line” which is achieved when, during one game, for the first time all five numbers on one horizontal row on one scorecard are drawn; or the “house” or “bingo” is achieved when, during one game, for the first time all the fifteen numbers on one scorecard are drawn.

Prizes are generally in kind (Denmark and Finland) and paid immediately (Sweden). In the Netherlands, limited money prizes are nevertheless possible and in the United Kingdom, nothing prevents providers of bingo services from offering purely cash prizes.

In some countries (Austria, the Czech Republic, Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Ireland and Sweden), bingo is considered to be a specific form of lottery.

As an exception, bingo in Belgium consists in a ball game where the player must lodge the ball in holes on the horizontal side of the machine and thus obtain a number of points that light up on the vertical side of the machine. Bingo can equally be a sort of table game in Belgium, in which event it can only be organised in casino facilities or after authorisation of the local authorities.

Credit © European Union

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