Online Gaming To Help Ease Estonia's Financial WoesJanuary 11, 2010 11:20 am
Estonia has been one of the EU countries hardest hit by the current economic crisis and has now decided to look to online gambling to help it out of its financial troubles.
Pre-2008, Estonia was in line to join the EU’s single currency, but after the economic crisis left its economy down by 36%, the small Baltic country seemed further away than ever from satisfying the strict criteria necessary for Eurozone entry. Estonia is now hoping that funds received from granting online licences and a 5 percent tax on gross revenues, will set its economy firmly back on the right path once more.
A two stage strategy has now been formulated in order to implement the country’s new Gambling Act, the first part of which went into operation at the start of the year.
As from 2010, Estonian players will be able to gamble online, using only locally licensed online gambling sites, but by 2011 the whole of Estonia’s internet gambling market will be opened up to foreign investors. The intervening time between the two stages will be used by the Estonian regulatory body to iron out the precise details and rules required to operate a successful and legitimate international online gaming operation.
The news that Estonia’s online gaming market would be confined to solely domestic companies for an intervening period, struck cautionary alarm bells for gamblers worried about small levels of online traffic and profit potential. Estonian professional poker player Imre Leibold had previously warned: “The possibility that online poker gaming could be restricted is not good news for us. If things get tough, one may have to consider moving residence or start working abroad like Estonian builders in Finland.”
How the Estonian government’s new online gambling action plan works out remains to be seen. In the meantime, however, many foreign online operators have been expressing a strong desire to set up in a country widely viewed as a gateway for the entire Baltic market. The Olympic Group, offering a Playtech-powered casino, has already been granted a local license, and Playtech’s Mor Weizer commented:
“We are truly glad of this opportunity to start our partnership with Olympic as the leading casino entertainment provider in Central and Eastern Europe.”