Europe is a massive and very lucrative market for online gambling. It is also an extremely complex market that forces gambling sites to navigate through a maze of varying laws, regulations, and licensing requirements. Topping it all off is a myriad of cultural, language, and currency considerations that must all be understood and accounted for.

Nevertheless, the best European gambling sites are more than happy to tackle these problems head-on. Nearly 743 million souls call Europe home and that, my friends, is a lot of potential gamblers. We will begin today with a list of the best places to play online and then continue below with a general overview of the European market as a whole.

This is the best possible list of online casinos that I can recommend to Europeans in general. However, it is far from comprehensive. With something north of 50 countries making up the landmass that we call “Europe,” there’s no single gambling site that hits every single country. These are just the biggest and safest sites that have a presence in the greatest number of European countries.

One thing that these sites all have in common (besides being safe places to play) is that they all accept deposits in Euros and host games in Euros. You can also deposit in other currencies, but you’ll find that most tables are played with euros, US dollars, or British pounds. If you deposit in some other currency, the poker site will convert your deposit into one of those three currencies for the duration of your stay.

Gaming laws also vary across Europe. Most Western European nations have at least fairly pro-gambling attitudes. Some nations even have licensing schemes complete with government oversight and player protections. Others have attempted to prohibit online poker and gambling.

As a whole, Eastern Europe is less developed on the regulation front. We have a few licensing systems in place, but many Eastern nations leave the issue open for debate or completely unaddressed. A small number of countries attempt to outlaw online gambling entirely.

Before we get into country-by-country discussions, I need to let you know that I am not a lawyer. The following summaries are based on my own research. I’m confident in what I talk about, but nothing can beat getting qualified legal advice. It would be best to talk to an attorney if you have any questions about the legality of poker where you live.

Countries where Online Poker is Licensed and Regulated

A small number of European nations have formally legalized and regulated online poker in recent years. Players who live in these nations may play online poker at safe, licensed sites without fear of legal consequences.

The United Kingdom is the most populous European nation to have an effective licensing system in place. Poker sites that wish to serve the UK market can apply for licenses and submit to regular testing and oversight. Licensing fees and taxes are reasonable, so all the world’s major sites have a presence in the UK.

From the player’s point of view, the UK is a great place to live. Licensed poker sites in the UK must keep minimum levels of financial liquidity, monitor the games for fairness, adhere to advertising standards, and more. Unlike many other nations globally, poker laws in the UK are clear, and poker is unambiguously legal.

Regulations enacted by France in 2009 created the Autorité de régulation des jeux en ligne (ARJEL) to license and regulate online poker. At first, French players were happy to see the end of a 40-year-old state-run monopoly. However, the regulations have since proven to be burdensome and not conducive to maximizing the industry’s health.

It has been reported that nearly half of France’s poker players visit offshore sites. The problem with online poker in France is one of overregulation and punitive taxes. Currently, operators are required to collect a tax of 2% on all ring game pots in addition to paying up to 33% in corporate income taxes.

Furthermore, sites were required to ring-fence players from the rest of the world until recently. This means that players in France are prevented from playing at tables with people from other nations. This has had a detrimental impact on liquidity and limited the full potential of online poker in France.

On a more positive note, French regulators have reached an agreement with regulators in Spain, Italy, and Portugal to begin sharing tables across all four countries at licensed poker sites. This means players may finally begin playing with players from other countries once again.

Online poker is legal and regulated in Italy, and the market is currently ring-fenced from the rest of the world. However, Italy reached an agreement with France, Spain, and Portugal to roll back the ring-fencing policy and allow customers from all four countries to share tables.

Licensed sites are required to operate on a.it domain and pay all applicable taxes. Most of the world’s largest names in poker have an operating license, with the largest of these being PokerStars.it.

Although there are still plenty of legal options, poker revenues have fallen year on year since 2007. A struggling economy, high taxes, ring-fencing of Italians, and competition from traditional gambling games have all made it difficult for online poker to reach its full potential in Italy. The elimination of the ring-fencing policy is expected to boost the poker economy in the coming years significantly.

Spain has a lot of potential as a poker market thanks to a large population with a relatively high disposable income. In 2011, the Spanish Gambling Act was introduced and allowed operators to apply for licenses and operate on .es domains. Players in Spain have access to a variety of safe and regulated options.

As we’ve seen with other countries, the only problem is the government’s insistence on ring-fencing players from the rest of the world. As a result, the poker industry has struggled to show the growth once promised by legalization. It was revealed recently that 43% of current online poker players play at sites not licensed in Spain. If the government ever revises its stance on ring-fencing, we can expect to see significant growth.

The good news is Spain has changed its stance on ring-fencing. In 2017, Spain teamed up with France, Italy, and Portugal to allow poker sites to share liquidity across all four countries.

Online poker is legal in Portugal, but like several other countries described on this page, a ring-fencing policy hamstrung online poker from reaching its full potential. The ring-fencing policy was rescinded in 2017, and Portugal is now set to join an international liquidity-sharing pool with France, Spain, and Italy.

In 2012, online poker in Denmark became regulated under the Act on Gambling. Operators that wish to accept Danish players may apply for licenses and host real money games with few restrictions. The best part of all this is that Denmark follows the UK’s lead in not ring-fencing players. Overall, Denmark’s regulation and licensing system is a model that the rest of the world should look to for inspiration.

Estonia is home to a simple licensing system with low taxes and no ring-fencing requirement. Overall, Estonia is a good place to live like a player. You have access to most of the world’s major poker sites and will have no problems signing up or funding your account.

Online poker is legal but highly regulated in Belgium. A limited number of companies have operating licenses to offer real money poker, while all others are blacklisted and subject to internet censorship. Players are encouraged to stick with licensed sites because Belgian law does impose penalties on those caught playing unlicensed sites.

Poker sites may operate in Greenland if they already have a Danish license and pay an application fee of 50,000kr. With fewer than 57,000 people, Greenland is not high on the priority list of most international poker sites. Some sites block Greenland entirely, while others still accept players despite lacking the proper license. Currently, there are no laws against individual players visiting any poker site they wish.

Countries without Effective Licensing Systems

The remaining countries on this page either do not have fully address online poker or have hostile laws to online poker. In most cases, the legality of playing is questionable, and people continue to play online without any issue. However, a handful of countries actively pursue and punish players.

There’s some debate as to whether or not Russia is even a part of Europe, but we’re going to group it here for simplicity’s sake. Russia accounts for a large chunk of Europe’s population, with more than 143 million people. It would be a market ripe for the picking if it weren’t such an anti-gambling nation.

Online poker has come under attack in Russia in recent years, with the government attempting to prohibit most forms of online betting. The government is in the early stages of implementing a countrywide blacklist that would require internet service providers to block access to known gambling and poker sites. Many Russians play online poker today, but the future looks troubling. If Russia is ever able to control the flow of information on the internet fully, it could be dark days for poker players.

I’m unable to find any evidence that Russian authorities bother with individual players. All the latest news from the country revolves around the efforts of authorities to prevent access to poker sites. Most citizens can play online today, but recent developments are concerning.

Germany is home to some of the most confusing poker regulations in the world. Individual states can regulate online gaming, while the federal government has its own take on the activity. It is a nightmare for operators and players alike to make sense of it all.

What we do know is that there are many successful German poker players. At one point, the state of Schleswig-Holstein opted for regulation and allowed a handful of international poker sites to obtain licenses. The state government was thrown out of office in the following year’s elections, and the new government ended the licensing scheme. However, the new government respected the previously issued 6-year licenses and allowed them to expire at the end of 2018.

It is unclear if it’s even legal to play online poker in Germany. Many people do play online every day, but we’ve also heard one story of a PokerStars player from Saxony who had a large win confiscated by his bank. The odd thing about this story is that PokerStars does have an operating license in Germany.

Turkey is quite hostile to online poker. Gaming laws in the country threaten players and operators alike with severe punishments for offering or playing poker over the internet. Operators and payment processors face jail time if caught providing services to Turkish players, while the players themselves appear to face financial penalties.

The current legal environment for poker in Ukraine looks a lot like what we see in other countries. Online gambling and poker are prohibited by law, but there appears to be little enforcement. Many of today’s online poker players hail from Ukraine, and I have heard of no arrests for the mere act of playing online poker. Although it is illegal to operate a poker site from within Ukraine, many international sites headquartered elsewhere continue to accept players from the country.

Poland is not a good place to play online poker. The country has long prohibited the activity, but until recently, it failed to enforce laws that specifically make it a crime to play online poker. This changed in 2014 when the government announced it had collected the names and information of 24,000 people who were suspected of gambling online.

A small handful of Polish companies are licensed to offer certain forms of online gambling, but it is widely reported that 90% of gambling activities take place with unlicensed offshore operators. The good news is that we’re starting to hear rumors that a new Polish gambling act may eventually open the market to international operators.