Estonia is one of the least populated countries that is a member of the European Union. Although Estonia was doing well financially, with rapid economic growth for several years, it was very hard hit by the 2008-2009 economic crisis. In fact, it was the second hardest hit out of all the European Union member countries.
In an attempt to recoup some of their losses, and get onto a better financial footing, Estonia made the decision to legalize online gambling. They have now implemented their Gambling Act, which will now allow online casinos to be run from inside Estonia, whereas the previous laws expressly forbid any Estonian servers from hosting gambling software. Now, sites that are located outside the countries, on foreign servers, will be blocked.
While Estonia has made online gambling legal, they have not agreed that online gambling operations from outside Estonia may offer their service to Estonians. Estonia has decided that the first year of legalized online gambling will be available only on the Olympic Casino Group, the nation-based online gambling platform. The Olympic Casino Group will be run on Playtech online casino software.
Playtech’s Chief Executive Officer, Mor Weizer, was quoted in the Estonian Free Press, saying "We are truly glad of this opportunity to start our partnership with Olympic as the leading casino entertainment provider in Central and Eastern Europe."
Although Estonia’s plan is to open their doors to foreign gambling operators in 2011, they have included a number of extra requirements that will need to be followed in order for the foreign gambling operators to offer their services inside Estonia, they are still going to be at odds with the European Commission.
Estonia can now be added to the list of those European Union member countries that has chosen to disregard the rules of the trade treaty that states that all EU countries accept each other’s regulatory and licensing procedures, since this will meet the requirements in order to create the effect of a single European market. Other EU countries that are following protectionist gaming policies include France and Germany.
A poker professional from Estonia, Imre Leibold, told the Baltic Times, "The possibility that online poker gaming could be restricted is not good news for us. If things get tough, one may have to consider moving residence or start working abroad like Estonian builders in Finland."
It is understood that economically, that the online gambling market would have to open to foreign investors after a short period of time or else the country could risk seeing an exodus of the gaming business.