European Commission - Press release
State aid: Commission clears Danish online gambling duties
Brussels, 20 September 2011 – After an in-depth investigation, the European Commission has concluded that a law liberalising gambling in Denmark and at the same time creating lower taxes for online casinos than for land-based ones is in line with EU state aid rules. This is because the positive effects of the liberalisation of the sector outweigh potential distortions of competition.
Denmark adopted a law in 2010 liberalising gambling, which until now is a state monopoly. The entry into force of the law was postponed while waiting clearance from the Commission under state aid rules.
The Danish Gaming Duties Act foresees that online providers of casino games and gaming machines will be subject to a duty of 20 % on the gross gaming revenue (GGR stakes minus winnings), compared with up to 75 % for land-based casinos and gaming halls.
In assessing the law's compatibility with Article 107.3.c of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU, the Commission took into account the availability of sometimes illegal online offers by providers established in other countries or subject to low or even no taxation. A duty making the offer of the Danish online providers too expensive would have rendered the liberalisation of the market devoid of purpose. The Commission's noted the law's other objectives to bring illegal gambling within the remit of legality whist protecting the young and the vulnerable from becoming addicted to gambling.
The Commission's decision establishes that the lower rate of taxation for on-line gambling indeed constitutes state aid but finds it compatible with EU rules, because the positive effects of the liberalisation of the market outweigh the distortions of competition brought about by the measure.
The Commission last December opened an in-depth investigation into the law notified by Denmark (see IP/10/1711) after it received complaints from land-based gambling operators and had doubts whether the different tax treatment entailed an unjustified competitive advantage to online casinos. Since then it received 17 submissions from Member States, associations and companies which allowed the Commission to gain a better understanding of the market, in particular of the emerging and fast growing market of online gambling services in Denmark.
Denmark currently has a gambling monopoly. The risk of circumvention of the monopoly, the loss of tax revenue and the absence of any control on activities deemed to be illegal led the government to propose the opening of the online market. Under the new law, online gambling services may legally be provided by gambling providers established in Denmark and licensed by the Danish authorities.
Those Member States who already have liberalised their gambling markets normally apply a lower duty for the online provision of services compared to the land-based casinos (e.g. UK with a 15 % tax rate on GGR for gambling and up to 50 % for land-based casinos). Further Member States that currently are in the process of liberalising their gambling markets also intend to provide for different tax rates (e.g. Spain, Greece and Germany).
The non-confidential version of the decision will be made available under the case number C35/2010 in the State Aid Register on the DG Competition website once any confidentiality issues have been resolved. New publications of state aid decisions on the internet and in the Official Journal are listed in the State Aid Weekly e-News.