Online casinos accepting players from Austria
Organized gambling in Austria has been a part of the cultural landscape since the 18th Century. The modern era, especially since the establishment of the European Union has been fraught with change, indecision, and eventual progress in the country.
The land casino business comprises 12 casinos under two separate license tenders of six each, and all were granted to the 'former' de facto monopoly-owner there, Casinos Austria.
A few years later three additional licenses were awarded individually but their provenance was challenged in court and they were revoked.
The 2012 tender was for "city" casinos and the 2013 tender was for "rural" enterprises - all were existing Casinos Austria properties. They can be found in the following locales:
- Bad Gastein
The country's gambling laws are slowly but surely coming in line with the fair competition clauses of the EU, but to this day there is only one licensed online casino in Austria. Win2Day is a joint venture of Casinos Austria and Österreichische Lotterien (Austrian Lotteries). There is also a sportsbetting site, Admiral Sportwetten.
While the government and particularly the Bundesministerium für Finanzen (BMF), prefer to keep a virtual stranglehold on the market, operators licensed elsewhere in the EU continue to offer their services in the "gray market".
We'll examine online gambling and other betting laws in Austria here, take a look at some of the international operators offering casino games online, as well as payment methods and any potential drawbacks for Austrians who decide to venture outside the confines of the government-approved site.
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Legal Framework of Gambling in Austria
The most important laws pertaining to gambling in Austria are:
- Glücksspielgesetz (GSpG) 1989
- Austrian Civil Code Austria - Allgemeines bürgerliches Gesetzbuch (ABGB)
- E-Commerce-Act (E-Commerce-Gesetz)
- Federal Act Against Unfair Competition - Bundesgesetz gegen den unlauteren Wettbewerb (UWG) - 1984
Regulators and Authorities
Nearly all of the gambling law, including that concerning casinos, online casinos, slot parlors, and lotteries is administered by the BMF. However, some activities like sportsbetting and horse racing are regulated by authorities in the nine states or Bundesländer.
Poker is relegated to the BMF because, even though there is no legal definition of skill games and thus no assigned authority, poker falls under the GSpG as a game whose result depends "solely or predominantly on chance" - as defined in Article 1.
Online slots and even random number generator-based table games such as roulette and card games like blackjack are considered "electronic lotteries" and as such online casino gaming falls under the purview of the BMF.
Since there is only one lottery license allowed, all online casinos operating in Austria except for Win2Day are considered illegal by the BMF.
In 2018, efforts were put forth that would have allowed ISP blocking and blacklisting of other duly licensed EU casinos operating in Austria, but it was shelved. As of late 2019, there are no legal sanctions in the law allowing the BMF or other authority to block ISPs or payment processors nor to blacklist out of country online gambling websites.
Administrative fines (civil penalties) may be levied on Austrian residents who participate in online casino gambling under the GSpG. However, we still find no incidences of players being sanctioned under the law.
The Big Sticky Wicket
Major online casino operators depend on European Court judgments defining market freedom and unfair competition (monopolies) while the BMF relies on conflicting court decisions - those that state some of the elements of their monopoly are perfectly legal.
Austrian law states that gambling taxes are to be levied at the point of consumption and the government expects "illegal" operators licensed in other parts of the EU such as Gibraltar, Malta, etc., to pay "their share".
Under existing law they can collect the money in most cases. A 2018 report in Profil.at noted that 17 "illegal operators" had paid over 150 million euros to the government in taxes over the previous 6 years. According to the article, once the operators received notice of the fees they paid them in order to keep their current licenses in Malta and elsewhere in good standing. Many then followed up in court to retrieve their payments.
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The Future of Online Gambling in Austria
The government doesn't seem ready to give up its choke-hold on the Austrian market and open it to the competition. It could be that the government's ownership in more than 33% of Casinos Austria influences their decision making. The government's ÖBIB (National Wealth Fund) has managed the public shareholding in Casinos Austria since 2015.
In addition to the 12 venues in-country, Casinos Austria also owns four casinos on ships in the U.S. and another 14 casinos in a dozen other countries.
The giant NOVOMATIC also owns a sizable share of the company (17.2%).
It is nearly impossible to predict the final outcome of the unfair competition vs right to state monopoly battle but so far, Austria has not lost much ground - nor have they gained.
Players in Austria will most likely continue as they have for several years, choosing where they want to play and playing there.
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Online Payment Methods in Austria
Enjoying the luxury of transacting in EUR as well as being part of the Single Euro Payments Area Zone (SEPA), Austrians have no real worries about how to get their money into and out of online casinos.
SOFORT Banking (Sofortüberweisung) is an excellent alternative accepted at most online casinos that welcome Austrian players.
GiroPay offers instant transfers
Trustly has been an option for online gamblers in the country since the company's massive expansion drive in 2015. Residents with accounts at any of the following banks enjoy fast and efficient bank transfers for deposits and withdrawals using Trustly.
- Bank Austria
- BAWAG P.S.K.
- Erste Bank and Sparkasse
Other commonly used payment methods include
Austria is simply one of the best-served countries for online payment systems, the full array of viable options is far too voluminous to quantify here. A quick look at an online casino's cashier page should inform any query.
Online Casinos Austria FAQs
Are online casinos in Austria licensed?
Yes. The partially government-owned site Win2Day is the only government-approved online casino in the country. However, there are dozens of gaming sites which are available to residents that hold prestigious licenses from European Union-based regulators in Malta, the UK, Gibraltar, Isle of Man, Alderney, and Jersey to name a few jurisdictions looking out for players' best interests.
It becomes more important to do your research or depend on a trusted referral before playing at online casinos licensed elsewhere. The Kahnawake Gaming Commission (Canadian First Nation) is one exception. Over the last decade or so, Kahnawake has proven itself to be a just and fair arbiter and enforcer whenever disputes have arisen.
As a rule, casinos claiming a license in Panama or Costa Rica should be investigated thoroughly before depositing. Curacao license-holders present a mixed bag so we suggest that you at least read a review here before playing at a property licensed by any of the Master License holders in the Caribbean. We pull no punches in our casino reviews and we tell it like it is.
Are online casinos in Austria safe to play at?
Of course, major brands like Mr Green and Bet365 that hold elite EU licenses are as safe to play at as the government licensed site. They may even be able to offer better odds, higher RTP (return to player percentages), and bigger bonuses if they don't have to pay Austrian taxes on every spin.
As far as data protection, yes, perhaps as safe as your bank. All online casinos use state of the art secure-socket-layer (SSL) encryption to protect sensitive data.
Is Gambling legal in Austria?
Yes. Casinos Austria has 12 licensed land-based casinos and one licensed online casino in association with Austrian Lotteries. They also have about 20 VLT locations (WINWIN), over 3,000 tipp3 sportsbetting outlets, and more than 5,000 lottery sales outlets.
The Minister of Finance believes that online gambling is illegal anywhere except government-licensed sites like Win2Day and Admiral Sportswetten. While there are administrative fines on the books for residents participating in 'electronic lotteries' (online casinos) we have yet to find any case law or incident of an Austrian being fined or prosecuted for gambling at an offshore casino.
Does the government tax online casino winnings?
No. Online and land-based casino winnings are completely tax-free in Austria. The casino operators are responsible for paying taxes on their Gross Gaming Revenue (stakes minus winnings).
Do I need to use a VPN?
No. The BMF wanted to begin a blacklist and IP blocking of "illegal casinos" but the law was not passed. As of late 2019, the government does not maintain or publish any blacklist of casinos nor do they block financial transactions to offshore casinos or the casino websites.
Can I play at Austrian online casinos if I'm located somewhere else?
Yes, casinos that accept players from Austria also serve other areas of Europe and the rest of the world. The glaring exception is the government monopoly site, Win2Day. Only Austrians can play there.
Why are the gambling laws so strict in Austria?
The regulations are not so much strict as they are protective. In the past, the government has been slagged for not doing enough for problem gamblers, but that has changed since 2010 with the implementation of gambling protection measures (Section 1 (4) of the Gambling Act (GSpG).
The government's stated purposes for, or policy objectives in regulating games of chance comprise the following:
- Prevention of organised crime (e.g. money laundering, financing of terrorism and other illegal activities)
- Prevention of consequential crime (theft, burglary, fraud) committed by gambling addicts
- Youth protection
- Consumer protection
- Financial market stability (pyramid schemes)
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