Lower Austria submits sports betting regulations to EC

13 August 2019

Lower Austria, the country’s largest state, has submitted sports betting legislation to regulate online and retail betting to the European Commission.

The Lower Austria Sports Betting Act aims to update the state’s laws governing wagering, with the current legislation, the Law on the Activities of Totalizators and Bookmakers, having been in place since 1978.

Though the regulations have been updated six times since 2001, the Lower Austrian government explained that a comprehensive update was necessary as a result of technological developments in the industry, and to set out specific regulations for online bookmakers and betting terminals hosted in outlets such as tobacconists, video stores and restaurants.

The update also ensures legislation is compliant with the European Union’s Fourth Money Laundering Directive. This follows the EC launching infringement proceedings over the Austrian federal and state governments’ failure to fully adopt the directive in January 2018.

The Act sets out a licensing system in which sports betting operators can apply for online or retail licences, with new market entrants limited to two-year licences. Companies renewing their certification can apply for licences lasting up to 10 years. For online sports betting licences, however, licences will be limited to two-year terms.

Operators will have to apply for a master licence, which sets out the type of activity they are allowed to carry out, at what sites it is done and for how long, and where it may offer betting terminals. Any changes must be ratified by the state government.

Betting on sports will be permitted, though betting on non-sporting events, such as politics or cultural events remains prohibited.

Employees of betting companies must undergo training to ensure they can interact appropriately with customers, to ensure they do not develop problems with gambling. This should be done in partnership with a player protection body.

Furthermore, operators will be expected to introduce safeguards for customers. These may range from providing counselling, to limited or indefinite suspension from their account or a betting shop chain. Customers that do not cooperate when safeguards are introduced can be hit with a total ban on betting, across all outlets in the state. Punters must also have an option to self-exclude.

A number of restrictions the markets will be enforced. Bets with a stake of more than €350 will not be accepted, while betting on “fictitious” events, such as virtual sports will be permitted, provided they are not based on recordings of real sports.

Live betting, which is described as particularly addictive, will also be limited to bets on results at the end of a half, the final outcome or on next point- or goalscorer will be permitted.

There will also be an 18+ age restriction, with all customers to provide a form of photo ID to ascertain they are old enough to place a bet.

Operators will be taxed based on turnover, with a fee for betting terminals also applied, of at least €175 per machine.