Estonian casino sites have been legal and regulated since 2010 thanks to favourable gambling laws enacted that year. After years of uncertainty, the legal environment in Estonia is crystal clear: online gambling is legal. We will discuss the law in more detail below, but let’s begin with a quick list of legal online casinos:
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Now that Estonia has an effective regulatory body to oversee online gambling, safety and fairness are no longer concerns as long as you stick with licensed casino sites. A division of the Tax and Customs Board is responsible for issuing licenses, and they also ensure compliance with the various consumer protection regulations designed to keep your money safe and the games fair.
We strongly recommend that all players stick with licensed Estonian online casinos for several reasons. Most important is the safety aspect – any site that has an active license has been inspected by the Tax and Customs Board and deemed safe for real money players. Unlicensed offshore gambling sites operate completely free and clear of government regulations. Although many foreign operators are perfectly safe, there are no guarantees.
Additionally, licensed operators have to expend a significant amount of effort to acquire an Estonian license and are therefore more invested in catering specifically to Estonian players. For example, all licensed casino sites support the Estonian language and provide hassle-free deposit/withdrawal options that work with our banking system.
Foreign operators simply do not have the incentive to translate their websites and software or to invest in specific deposit methods just for Estonians. Our total population is smaller than a mid-sized city in other parts of the world; it just does not make financial sense for the majority of the large, international operators to go through all that trouble. No problem – we still have plenty of options among the licensed operators that do focus on the Estonian market.
Estonian Gambling Legislation
Gambling first came to Estonia in 1995 with the introduction of the Gambling Act 1995 to legalize brick-and-mortar casinos. That legislation opened Estonia to gambling in general, but it wasn’t until 2008 that lawmakers formally addressed the issue of online gambling.
In 2008, lawmakers introduced the Gambling Act 2008 to establish a licensing system and regulations for Estonian casino sites. The act went into force in 2009 and then in 2010 it paved the way for the first online casinos to be licensed. This early version of the Gambling Act had one major shortcoming: it required operators to base their servers on Estonian territory in order to be considered suitable for a license.
The strict licensing requirements of the original Gambling Act 2008 left the market off-limits to international operators for all practical purposes. Lawmakers saw the shortcomings and decided they would rather open the market and collect tax revenues rather than continue the status quo indefinitely.
Changes to the law in 2011 and 2012 finally opened the market to true competition on the international stage. These amendments made it feasible for companies headquartered in other parts of the world to apply for licenses and serve the market without establishing a physical presence in Estonia. We are still a fairly small market compared to some other nations, but more than a dozen operators have applied for and received licenses for sports betting, poker, and casino games.
One of the most significant changes to the law dropped the requirement that operators host servers on Estonian soil. If a prospective licensee can prove its ability to adhere to all regulations and grant the Tax and Customs Board enough access to oversee the technical operation of the casino site, the board is willing to consider that operator for a license.
Other requirements of Estonian casino sites include extensive record-keeping, the ability to verify the ages and identities of players, to prevent minors from participating, and to have proper money-laundering preventions in place. All records must also be maintained in such a way to allow the Tax and Customs Board electronic access.
Wes Burns co-founded OnlineCasinoSites.com with a mission to help gamblers understand and navigate the regulated online casino market in all countries around the world. Wes is a respected gambling journalist, working in the industry since 2008.