Betting in Estonia

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As the northernmost of the Eastern European Baltic states, Estonia is situated between Latvia and Russia, bordering the Baltic Sea, where it comprises more than 1,500 islands. Its capital is the harbour city of Tallinn, which overlooks the Gulf of Finland. With a population of less than 1.5 million, Estonia hosts a huge gambling industry relative to its size.

The nation gained its independence from centuries of Swedish and Russian rule in 1918, but it was forcibly incorporated into the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics in 1940. So it remained until the Soviet Union relinquished control in 1990 and the country’s freedom was reestablished. Although Estonian is the official language spoken there, Russian, Ukrainian, English and Finnish are also commonly known and used.

No sooner had Soviet troops begun to leave Estonia then a national lottery was organised in 1991, with operations assigned to Eesti Loto AS, a lottery company originally founded twenty years earlier. When unsanctioned competitors began to appear, it soon became apparent that some form of official regulation was required. That led to the passage of the Lottery Law of 1994, placing all lotteries under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Finance, including classic lotteries, instant-win games and number lotteries.

In 2000, Eesti Loto became a member of the Scandinavian regional lottery known as Viking Lotto, which was organised in 1993 by Norsk Tipping out of Norway. Two Keno-type lotteries, Bingo-Loto and Keno-Loto have also been introduced. Additionally, a second lottery company named Bristol has been contracted specifically to offer instant and break-open games.

The regulations that govern all other betting activities in Estonia are based upon the Gambling Act, which was passed by the nation’s parliament in 1995. This legislation has allowed the licensing of some 20 different companies for legal gambling—a number of foreign companies among them—including brick-and-mortar casinos, where players must be at least 21 years old for admission.

Today, an estimated 170 legal casinos and gambling venues exist in Estonia, many of them operated by the Olympic Entertainment Group. By one count, there are at least 58 casinos in Tallinn alone, plus eleven in Tartu, eight in Parnu, four in Narva, and three apiece in Jõhvi and Viljandi.

Many of the casinos are actually slot clubs that contain only gaming machines, but several of the larger venues offer Blackjack, Poker, Baccarat, Roulette and other table games. Estonia also has one horse racing venue where pari-mutuel wagering is allowed. The Tallinn Hippodrome features a 1,000-metre circuit with harness racing, open daily from 10am to 6pm.

One strict rule related to gambling establishments in Estonia is that they are not permitted to allow other economic activities to take place inside—gaming only. Also, any wins worth more than €5,000 must be reported to the Ministry of Finance. The average rate of taxation on games of chance is currently 18 percent.

Regarding online betting, the state-run sportsbook known as Spordiennustus was the first to offer wagering opportunities via the Internet in 2004. It was soon followed by E-Lotto, with access to the state lottery, bingo and other number-based games.

In early 2010, new legislation was passed to allow commercial firms to offer online gambling. Olympic Entertainment Group was first to receive an Estonian license, with Pokerstars’ Estonian-facing site right behind. Local residents may also take advantage of some 465 sports betting web sites that accept play from Estonia, including four in the Estonian language, namely Expekt Sportsbook, Unibet Sports & Racebook, Bet24 and Triobet.