April 15, 2010

Estonia begins blocking online casinos

As part of a two-tier strategy designed to implement its new Gambling Act, the small Baltic nation of Estonia has started blocking access to leading online casino and poker sites including PartyPoker.com and PokerStars.com.

The country legalised online gambling earlier this year but stipulated that players could only take part at sites licensed in the nation such as Olympic-Online.com, which is owned by Estonian land-based casino operator Olympic Entertainment Group and offers a range of some 150 games in English and Russian.

The Estonian Tax And Custom Board subsequently drew up a list of around 200 domain names associated with online gambling and stipulated that local Internet service providers block services from these sites or face a fine of around $15,600. Some of the world’s largest and most popular online casinos including Unibet.com, FullTiltPoker.com, Bwin.com, PokerStars.com and PartyPoker.com are included on this register and the move has drawn criticism from the European Commission.

Playtech-powered Olympic-Online.com is the only online casino to have been authorised for Estonian players so far while authorities claim that the nation’s moves are only temporary as it comes to terms with precisely how to run a successful and legitimate virtual gaming operation.

“The possibility that online poker gaming could be restricted is not good news for us,” said Estonian professional poker player Imre Leibold.

“I believe and hope that the whole affair is resolved and that there will be several reasonable gaming locations on the market. However, if things get tough, one may have to consider moving residence or start working abroad like Estonian builders in Finland.”

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