State of online gambling in Eastern Europe

You may have read several articles on news websites over the last several months regarding the state of iGaming in Eastern Europe. The situation is much different than in the West, where recalcitrant European governments refused to open their online gambling markets for some time but eventually came up with a solid legislation. In my opinion, the state of gambling in post-socialist countries is noticeably different from that of other countries in Europe yet brings some huge benefits. The first one? Avid gamblers who have a penchant for high risk games and seek fast wins.

Nowadays, the fast emerging online gambling industry of Eastern Europe is attracting plenty of interest from both Internet and land-based operators. Despite the economic crisis, this region holds massive potential, as more and more established online gambling brands expand their services to the East. The downside? There is not that much cash as in the Western countries. 

Despite the fact that Europe is often considered a “single state” regarding financial significance, and it is to some extent as it is governed and represented by European Union’s legislation, the individual nations are still largely in charge of applying their own laws. This is especially true within the gambling industry since there is no regulation or legislation when it comes to gambling and betting all through Europe.

Online gambling offers interesting opportunities in most parts of Eastern Europe, with countries such as Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, and the Czech Republic embracing the Internet gambling ‘revolution’ by allowing companies and operators other than the national lottery to request and hold licenses.

For example, the appealing Romanian market has recently become the target of large online gambling operators. In just 3 months, 13 operators have received their provisional licenses. This number seems to keep growing and by the looks of it, the Romanian online gambling market has already surpassed the Bulgarian market and will keep growing.

I strongly believe this will lead to a flooding of the online market with endless possibilities of gambling, promotions on every fence and online marketing space in the beginning. And this is valid for almost every Eastern European country that starts implementing legislation for online gambling. It will take some time until it’s going to become a civilized market where every player will have its favourite operator to gamble. Remote gambling legislation passed in Romania at the end of 2010 and it took 5 years for operators to get a license.

At the time of writing, the “Game On – Bringing Gambling Back to the Ukraine” conference has just wrapped up in Kiev (October 13 and 14, 2015).  Despite political turmoil in the Eastern regions of the country, the Ukraine is quite a lovely place to visit and prior to 2009, was home to a very healthy gambling industry. The Ukraine government aims to do some changes in the emerging gambling industry to increase tourism and generate more tax revenue, an industry that craves for proper regulation in the country. In a nutshell, gambling has been banned since 2009 in Ukraine and now the Government wants to bring it back to generate tax income. However, this industry is very unregulated and presents a hotchpotch of requirements. I believe a more holistic approach is needed.

There is such a strong propensity to gamble amongst many of the citizens in Eastern Europe. These people culturally enjoy gambling and that has been denied in its regulated form. While there was no stability in these Eastern countries in the past, gambling laws kept changing and encouraged monopoly or oligopoly. These policies drove away most gambling operators. However, most countries from Eastern Europe allowed online gambling starting from 2010 (with the exception of Montenegro – with the 2004 law) and things have started to go in the right direction.

Why is Eastern Europe perfect for gambling giants? The portrait of the Eastern gambler says it all: low income and avidity for high returns, meaning that he is willing to play a larger percentage of its income and has a penchant for high risk – high reward games, where luck predominates, unlike the Westerners or Northerners for example, who prefer games such as poker or bet for fun.

Finally, membership of the EU has strongly benefited the economies and living standards of most Eastern European countries and gambling brands cannot afford to ignore those huge opportunities that exist in the region’s respective gambling markets.

As a result, keeping up with all the legalities of gambling, particularly Internet gambling, throughout the continent is a significant challenge. My opinion? Eastern Europe is the new playground for the big players in this industry. They can implement new marketing techniques and push iGaming even further as this region boasts large potential and hundreds of thousands of avid gamblers.

Mihai Voinea is a seasoned gambler and a professional Romanian writer, part of the team at



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