Betting in Austria

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Based upon GDP per capita, Austria ranks among the ten wealthiest nations in the world. It rose from the ashes of Word War II, joined the United Nations in 1955 and became a member of the European Union (EU) in 1995. The Euro replaced the Shilling as the official Austrian currency in 1999.

The first step toward legalisation of gambling throughout Austria was taken in 1986, when an Amendment to the Gambling Act (Novelle zum Glücksspielgesetz) was passed to permit lottery-type games of chance. Soon after, the Österreichischen Lotto Toto Gesellschaft GmbH. (Austrian Lotto Toto Company) was formed as a state-sanctioned monopoly.

The Austrian populace quickly embraced such games as the Brieflos, Zahlenlotto 1-90 and Österreichischen Klassenlottery, and later Lotto 6/45. Profits from the game known as Sporttoto (pools) were designated specifically to support Austrian sports organisations and sporting activities. The monopoly’s name has since been changed to Österreichische Lotterien GmbH.

In 1995, scratchcard games were introduced in two forms: Cash and Schatzruhe (treasury). They were followed four years later by the licensing of Bingo emporiums. It was only a short step from there to granting permission for casinos to be established, with the regulation of their operations assigned to local authorities.

Austria is divided into nine Bundesländer (states) and today casinos can be found in each one of them under strict government supervision. Austrian citizens can enjoy slots and table games at some 30 venues around the country, including five locations in Vienna alone. Innsbruck, Bregenz and Linz each have two casinos apiece.

Open to visiting foreigners and locals alike, some have restricted hours, while other are available for action 24/7. In Eisenstadt, Kitzbühel, Kufstein and Wiener Neustadt, the chain known as Poker Royale operates “card casinos.” In Ebreichsdorf, the Magna Racino provides both gaming and seasonal horse racing action.

With the exception of Toto, all sports betting products in Austria fall outside the control of the Glücksspielmonopol (gaming monopoly). Licenses for betting shops may be obtained from the individual Bundesländer. As a result, sportsbook cafés can now be found all over the country, and dedicated bet shops are also common.

The sports betting market in Austria is dominated by a company named Admiral Sportwetten. They currently operate about 50 bet shops across Austria. Land-based bookmakers are also eligible to operate online sportsbooks. However, proper licenses are required.

In fact, only locally sanctioned operators may offer gaming over the Internet and via mobile phones. To limit competition and protect Austria-based businesses even further, foreign-licensed bookmakers with web sites have been prohibited from advertising within the country.

Such practices have been met with resistance, of course. The European Union has launched investigations, aiming at lawsuits showing that Austria is too restrictive. But at least a few outsiders have discovered a way around the restrictions.

In 2010, U.K.-based PartyGaming announced its merger with Austria-based Bwin Interactive Entertainment to form the world’s largest publicly traded Internet gambling company. Other familiar names took the decision to get licensed in Austria in order to provide betting services. They include BetFair and Expekt.

Meanwhile, sportsbooks beyond Austrian borders are continuing to accept wagers from local residents—some 477 of them are currently in competition by one count. Among them are 84 web sites with support available in the German language. There are no laws to prevent Austrian citizens from placing wagers with such sportsbooks. Local payment methods like Sofortüberweisung are quite popular for financial transactions in addition to credit and debits cards.