Safe Online Casinos in Europe – Top Legal Online Casinos
Safe Online Casinos in 2020
When you want to play in an online casino you want to make sure your money is safe and you don’t get cheated! View our recommended list of safe online casinos for the European market and find a legal online casino!
How do keep yourself safe online? And how do you find a safe online casino that won’t cheat on you? It’s a question every online gambler should ask. We don’t want to scare you in this safe casino gambling guide. The days of out-and-out scam sites aren’t dead and gone, but there is enough licensing and regulation to allow most players to spend their entire online casino life safely away from such dangers. There’s a lot you can do to help keep yourself safe though, and this safe online casino guide will help you. We will also show you the top safe online casinos in Europe! (As we write this, the UK is still in the EU, so we will mention the laws and regulations in that jurisdiction, though no-one is sure what is going to happen with Brexit yet.)
What is the EU?
This might seem like a bit of a beginner’s question, but many people think of the EU as a geographic area without taking too much account of what membership actually means. The EU is a borderless free-trade area of 28 (including the UK for now) nations. The Treaty of Rome set out four freedoms at the heart of the EU: freedom of movement for people, goods, services, and capital. These principles are continued in the single market.
That means that you can expect to enjoy similar commercial services across the EU and that companies should be able to expect to set up businesses in an EU country if they come from another EU country. However, there is not a single gambling law or a gambling body for the EU. “EU countries are autonomous in the way they organise their gambling services, as long as they comply with the fundamental freedoms established under the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), as interpreted by the Court of Justice of the EU,” says the body itself.
The EU’s documents talk of a patchy picture across the bloc, with a number of countries allowing internet gambling on a number of different legislative frameworks. Some have a state-run gambling monopoly, and this is currently allowed (the direction of travel in the EU is towards more “market liberalisation” so this may not last forever). Other countries have a gambling market of private operators. The word from above is: “Under EU law, no particular system is favoured over the others.” As long as those systems meet EU law then that’s fine. We are not a law blog, and you can go and search out more detail on this if it’s something that interests you.
The EU Commission says that it is supporting countries as they try to modernise online gaming. In EU (and international capitalist terms) modernise always means removing regulation. They are also helping administrations to work together across borders: this is good news for everyone, as it’s not great if a company that is outlawed somewhere for behaving badly should be able to set up in another jurisdiction. Where the Commission does try to enforce standardisation it is in protection for minors and vulnerable people. A European Committee for Standardisation is working to develop a voluntary standard on reporting so that supervision of services is broadly similar.
There is also interest in the gambling sector from the EU is so far as it relates to money laundering; match-fixing (with regards to Live sports betting); general consumer protection rules; and rules relating to the digital single market.
What is a Safe Online Casino?
Where does this leave you, the casino customer? And what is a safe online casino? Not really in a bad place. But you should be sure that you know how to spot a safe casino when you see one. Gambling is legislated on in almost every country in the world. That’s because there is the potential for people to get into trouble with gambling: they can get addicted and end up in financial and health trouble.
So, it is your responsibility to obey the laws in the jurisdiction where you currently are. If you’re a sovereign citizen or some other nonsense and refuse to accept any law then that’s up to you. If you ignore gambling laws you will immediately find yourself unable to get any redress – or even any withdrawals – if something goes wrong at a site you’re using.
Please don’t use VPNs to get around geographic restrictions and play from restricted countries. Please do not use fake IDs to get around age restrictions. And please don’t mess around with credit cards or other financial tricks to get around spending limits or to play when you don’t have the money to.
Play at Legal Online Casinos
You should only play at a casino that is licensed in the jurisdiction you’re in. This is the only safe way to play. Some jurisdictions accept off-shore licensing: for example, the UK for many years recognised licensing from many other countries (especially specialist off-shore licensing jurisdictions like Malta, the Channel Islands, and Cyprus). Companies set up in those countries because the licensing rules were easy to use, or the country had low tax rates – usually both. The UK has changed this rule now and you must use sites recognised and approved by the UK Gambling Commission when you’re in the UK.
Make sure you’re aware of the laws where you are. And always play at safe and legal online casinos.
Safe Online Casinos are of Good Quality
Safe casino sites will also be of good quality. Scammers may get sophisticated, but actually setting up a multi-page website hosting hundreds of working games, with Help features, an address in the real world (please check for this), loyalty clubs and the like takes a long time. It’s not worth doing if all you want to do is grab a guy, get his money, and run. The better quality a site is the safer you can feel. The first thing that is at risk is your money, so you should look for good quality payment partners too. These are almost always shown on the front page of the site, alongside any licensing information.
Most safe casino sites accept a wide variety of payment types these days. Look for logos from Visa, MasterCard, a bank transfer sign, and also a good range of electronic wallets. These are too numerous to list in full here, but a few favourites are Skrill, Neteller, and PayPal. PayPal is the most famous of these and it’s a great badge of quality. A PayPal casino has done something right. PayPal dumped all its gambling business for a number of years, probably in fear of American legislation on online gambling, and once it came back to the market it did so with care, and only with carefully selected partners.
Skrill and Neteller are equally trusted, and especially so in the gambling market, and both are regulated.
Gambling Laws in the EU States
We cannot provide you with a full overview of online gambling laws in every EU state here. Find out what the deal is where you live first. If you’re travelling you should also know what the law is where you’re travelling to if you want to play your slots while you’re away.
Online Gambling Law in France
Gambling in France is legal, but quite heavily regulated. The casinos of Monte Carlo are outside the country in a low-tax enclave that sets its own rules. Slot machines were illegal until 1988, and the year before that the legal gambling age was lowered from 21 to 18. Online gambling was legalised in France in 2010, and a new regulatory authority was introduced to join the PMU and FDJ (who regulated all offline gambling). The ARJEL is the body that regulates online gambling in France.
ARJEL issues licenses and polices them. It has a role in fighting gambling addiction, in ensuring that games are played fairly, in stamping out illegal websites; and in money laundering policing. ARJEL licenses sports betting and online poker games. ARJEL has tried to stop French players from using overseas casino sites by getting French ISPs to block sites that had no licence. The ISPs didn’t fancy this, but the courts forced them to. Currently, ARJEL is due to be dissolved in early 2020.
Online gambling companies do not like France. They don’t like the strict licensing and they don’t like the tax laws and they don’t like rules that force them to keep the gaming servers on French territory. They don’t like the fact that only Texas Hold’em games are allowed. French players love online gambling and doubled the amount of money spent on gambling almost immediately the laws allowing web gambling was allowed. Somewhere along the line, these two competing interests will come to an agreement of sorts we guess. Keep your eye on the latest developments in France. The political drift in the country is towards “liberalisation” (scrapping rules), and the country is a potentially massive market for big international gambling companies. They lobby. You see what we’re saying.
Online Gambling Laws in Germany
Germany liked internet gaming even less than France. In 2008 a law banned all online gambling expect betting on horses. This did not go down well with online gambling companies, who went to the EU Commission to ask for changes. The European Court of Justice has ruled that Germany’s monopoly gambling is too restrictive and the laws in the company are being liberalised a little. However, things did not change very quickly.
One of the factors in this mixed picture is that the laws in the country were more about operators than players. No German has ever been prosecuted for gambling online, but the country isn’t really licensing any sites itself, so you need to look at sites that are licensed in good quality jurisdictions if you are going to gamble from German territory. The law may well change though. For a while, the state of Schleswig-Holstein went its own way and started to license sites. After a year the state reversed. However, all the licences that had been granted were good for six years.
The EU doesn’t particularly like Germany’s stance on gambling and may put more pressure on the country to liberalise its laws further. As of now, though, you should look for Schleswig-Holstein licenses or perhaps UK ones when you want to have a flutter in Germany.
Online Gambling Laws in Italy
The European Commission put the boot in on the Italian gambling market too. From 2003 the country was forced to liberalise its gambling laws in order to allow businesses from other countries to set up legitimate gambling businesses in the country. The laws required to introduce these changes started to be passed in 2006. Casino site owners celebrated around the continent. Before this, the country operated a monopolistic system with just two Italian companies allowed to take bets from Italian customers.
Italy enforced its ban with a blacklist of sites that weren’t licensed. But doing this violated EU rules on secrecy, because the Italian authorities hadn’t told anyone they were doing this. By 2009, the Italian government was further liberalising its gambling laws, and since 2010 foreign gambling companies have been able to operate in Italy if they have a licence from the Italian gambling authority – the AAMS (Amministrazione Autonoma dei Monopoli di Stato – Autonomous Administration of State Monopolies).
This body regulates games of skill, poker, poker for cash, casino games, sports betting, horse betting, and bingo. The Italian regulators have high thresholds, including technical standards and very high standards for financial security. If a site is licensed in Italy it’s a very good sign. There are limits though, and the AAMS can only licence 200 sites.
Online Gambling Laws in Ireland
Ireland has a rich (and perhaps even problematic) gambling culture, especially when it comes to horse racing. Online gambling is sort of legal in Ireland, but while the gambling laws are quite liberal, Irish licenses aren’t specifically made available to gambling websites. That means that currently Irish customers are generally accepted in online casinos, but they are playing rather at their own risk. Using sites with high-quality regulation, for example from Malta, the Isle of Man, or Alderney) is the best way to play safely and legally from Ireland.
This will almost certainly change.
Ireland is an English-speaking country with extremely attractive tax laws. In order to operate in the EU, gambling companies often have to have an EU base. If the UK does go ahead and leave the EU a number of gambling companies with UK HQs will need to set up an EU base, and Ireland is the obvious place to do it.
Online Gambling Laws in Spain
You can gamble online from and in Spain. Gambling is fairly heavily regulated in the country, with local and national laws applying. Spain’s holiday destinations are full of gambling joints, and there are seven horse racing courses in the country. Log on and you can play lottos, bingos, casino games, poker, and betting on various sports, including (controversially) bullfighting.
Online casinos are popular with Spanish customers, and they’re growing in size, growing a massive 25% in revenue in 2019. Slots are driving this increase in gambling spending. In fact, such is the explosion in slots spending that it is possible that the country may introduce more restrictions on online casino play in the future.
Licensing In Europe
The UK is the EU’s gambling powerhouse. It has a licensing authority that is world-class and it is the biggest gambling market in the EU. Malta is tiny. But Malta is massive in internet gambling. Every gambling company in the world headed to the little Mediterranean island and set up there after the country set up one of the earliest licensing authorities in 2001.
The regulator is respected and its licenses are accepted in a lot of other jurisdictions. Malta is a low tax jurisdiction and also has corruption problems, but a Maltese gaming license is well worth having. Elsewhere, there are moves to license gambling afoot in many other jurisdictions, including in the eastern European countries that joined the EU after 2001.
Sweden is likely to go fully legal soon, and that may trigger a domino effect across the Nordic countries. Sweden currently has a monopoly system, but the country is also a massive powerhouse in the online gaming industry, producing some of the world’s best slots games and casino software. It’s an uneasy contradiction and will surely not last forever.
The Dutch are also looking at reducing their regulation.
Alderney, the tiny Channel Island has been another off-shore gambling hub. Back in 2012, the country had more gambling traffic passing through its web domains than its three biggest rivals. It has a highly regarded regulator and you can see its logo on gambling sites from around the world.
Keep Up to Date
This picture will change, and it is your responsibility to keep on top of things. Brexit is just one factor. Politics is another. The EU would like all markets to become more liberal. Not every country wants that. The web has broken down a lot of barriers, and it has certainly made getting around national licensing restrictions very easy for players. However, we’ll reiterate the view we began this article with if you play without knowing the licensing situation in an EU country you are looking for potential trouble.