From Our Members

iGaming in emerging Europe: Navigating regulatory changes and market trends

Countries in emerging Europe have been working to update their laws and regulations to keep up with the rapidly evolving industry and shape trends simultaneously.  

Emerging Europe has long been a hotbed of potential for the iGaming industry. However, recent regulatory changes and market trends have transformed the landscape, creating both challenges and opportunities for operators in the region.  

GR8 Tech, having a long-standing relationship with many of the region’s markets, understands the peculiarities of these regions better than anyone else, ensuring its solutions are tailored to meet the unique demands of these areas. 

On the regulatory front, many emerging Europe countries have been working to update their laws and regulations to keep up with the rapidly evolving industry and shape trends simultaneously.  

For instance, in Georgia, a comprehensive reform package to the country’s gambling laws has been implemented with the intent to promote safer gambling practices and boost the domestic industry. The new regulations now require online casinos to be affiliated with land-based organisations and restrict online slots and sports betting to retail slots parlours and physical bookmakers, respectively.

These changes aim to curb illegal gambling and ensure compliance with licensing requirements while fostering growth for local companies and levelling the playing field within the industry. 

Ukraine & Hungary

In Ukraine, the Commission for the Regulation of Gambling and Lotteries (KRAIL) has submitted a set of proposals aiming to reform gambling laws, particularly those concerning the suspension and cancellation of gambling operators’ licences.  

These proposals seek to enhance the state’s capacity in gaming regulation by improving procedures for suspending, renewing, and cancelling licences, establishing a new framework for certifying and inspecting gaming equipment, and increasing the effectiveness of state supervision of the gaming market. Additionally, the law seeks to strengthen legal mechanisms to minimise problem gambling, increase state revenues, combat the illegal market, and improve the implementation of investment activity in the gaming market. 

In Hungary, new technical measures were introduced following amendments to the country’s Gambling Act. In February 2022, Hungary ended its sports betting state monopoly system, replacing it with a competitive licensing process overseen by SZTFH, the country’s regulatory authority. 

This new regime, launched on January 1, 2023, introduced several requirements for applicants: at least five years of experience in licensed online gaming in a European Economic Area state and no involvement in unlicensed gaming within five years of the application date.  

In January 2023, further legislation amended the Gambling Act, implementing technical changes to facilitate the new gaming market. The new rules now allow players to have multiple balances for each game, and businesses can offer early cash-out options, subject to the same rules and restrictions governing the payment of winnings.  

Regional commitment

These efforts demonstrate a regional commitment to improving legal and regulatory frameworks surrounding the gambling industry, ensuring compliance, curbing illegal gambling, and minimising problem gambling.

And while they may seem intimidating for some market players, GR8 Tech as a B2B provider is focused on evaluating and, if necessary, amending its products to ensure it remains fit for local technical requirements, enabling us to seamlessly navigate the evolving landscape. 

However, some regulatory changes have raised concerns. Stringent requirements and high fees, such as Georgia’s 1.6 million euros annual fee for online-only licences or Hungary’s one billion forint (2.7 million euros) share capital requirement, could deter smaller operators, limit competition, and potentially lead to market consolidation.  

Additionally, enforcement complexity may strain the capacity of regulatory bodies as countries implement new regulations and requirements. 

Positive trends

Despite these challenges, positive market trends are emerging. Mobile gaming’s growing popularity is expected to drive industry growth in the coming years. While desktop and laptop devices continue to hold a significant share of the market due to their larger screen sizes and enhanced gaming experience, the increasing penetration of smartphones and their convenience are challenging this dominance. 

Another trend is a certain share of operators returning to in-house solutions in terms of software development. Notable examples include 888 Poker and William Hill. I feel like this trend reflects a certain issue in the B2B market, namely a lack of quality support, which is one of the things we at GR8 Tech address with our solutions.  

What’s the best course of action for emerging Europe markets in light of these trends? For starters, they highlight the importance of adapting to the changing preferences of consumers, such as the shift towards mobile gaming, while learning from the regulatory frameworks and market structures of established European gambling hubs like the UK.  

In addition, given the competitive environment, operators in emerging Europe should reassess their knowledge of the potential advantages and disadvantages of technology providers in light of new players and offerings in the market. 

This content has been produced in collaboration with a partner organisation through our Global Visibility Programme. Our programme helps companies boost their digital presence and strengthen the thought leadership of their experts. Find out more here.