Gambling in the Balkans: European Laws and Stable Market Growth

9 november 2023

Experts of the CASEXE studio will tell you about the wagering industry and sports betting niche in the Balkans. You will find out which countries are currently worth investing in to become a successful market participant.

How the Casino Sector is Developing in the Region

Gambling in the Balkans: about the region

The growth of the iGaming sphere began in the 2000s. After the collapse of Yugoslavia in 1991, several new states emerged in the Balkans, including Croatia, Macedonia, Slovenia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Territorial claims of neighbouring countries continued until 1999, when NATO sent in peacekeeping troops.

In the early 2000s, things calmed down. The local governments began to develop the economy, and businessmen started to attract investment from abroad. Gambling has quickly become a priority sector in many countries, given its strong connection with tourism.

The Balkan Peninsula is surrounded on three sides by seas, which has created a favourable atmosphere for the growth of the recreational niche. Fashionable resorts with hotels, restaurants, rest zones, and casinos were built in coastal areas.

Strengthening of the gambling market in the region was affected by close ties with the European Union:

  • Greece became a member of the EU back in 1981;
  • Slovenia and Cyprus — in 2004;
  • Romania and Bulgaria — in 2007;
  • Croatia — in 2013.

After entering the EU, countries adjusted their casino legislation in accordance with the norms of the union. The main emphasis was placed on security and protection of confidential data, adherence to responsible wagering principles, licensing, and content certification.

The emergence of the iGaming sector began in the 2010s. Online casinos and virtual betting shops started to actively appear in the region, given the high interest in the placement of bids among the locals.

Specifics of the Gambling Market in the Balkans

Let us consider the key features of the industry:

Different Approaches to Legalisation

In some countries (for example, Romania or Croatia), casino entertainment is completely legal. Land-based location and digital platforms bring millions of profit to their owners and stable revenues to the state budget.

In some jurisdictions (e.g. Albania), all gambling manifestations are strictly banned.

Monopolisation of the Niche

In Kosovo, Croatia, Slovenia, and other countries, the government has the exclusive right to organise lotteries. In Slovenia, a limited number of casino licences were issued. Despite the liberalisation of the market, authorities still have an enormous influence on business.

Developed IT Sector

Key features of the region:

  • 4G and 5G broadband networks;
  • modern data centres and IT hubs;
  • strong and competitive labour market;
  • access to the most valuable employees in the field of programming, testing, and web design.

All this encourages top companies to open more branches. The Evolution Gaming brand, for example, has live studios in Bulgaria, and Pragmatic Play actively operates in Romania.

Medium Level of Competition

Compared to Western Europe, the local market appeared later. Therefore, operators have room to grow, which is extremely important for successful business scaling.

Currently, many well-known brands are in the process of obtaining a licence, given the low competition in the region.

Developing Economy

Working in the Balkans is profitable due to the average level of wages by EU standards and the affordable cost of services. This includes website hosting, payment processing, marketing, consulting (accounting support and resolution of legal issues), and other aspects from which the monthly expenses of an online casino are formed.


The local gambling market is considered one of the most advanced in the Balkans due to the following factors:

  1. Transparent regulation. The National Gambling Office (ONJN) allows all types of casino solutions. Ground-based and virtual locations, betting portals, and online poker are completely legal in the country. The monopoly on the draw business belongs to the Loteria Romana state company.
  2. High market activity. The country is home to 20 million people who are interested in the placement of bids. Smartphone penetration rate is 88%. Every third adult resident visits a casino or bookmaker’s office at least once a week.

Nuances of Business Licensing

ONJN issues 3 types of permits:

  1. First class. The document allows entrepreneurs to legally accept wagers from local players. The permit is intended for owners of gambling halls, sportsbook resources, and poker rooms.
  2. Second class. This is a certificate for creators of entertainment content (slots, arcades, and live games), suppliers of casino and betting platforms, companies that provide hosting services, and payment aggregators.
  3. Third class. The only owner of this type of document is the Loteria Romana state monopolist.

Licence fees depend on the type of permit and the company's annual GGR. Holders of a certificate of the first category pay €15.6–312 thousand.

For B2B providers, the mandatory fee is only €9.5 thousand. This is one of the lowest rates in the EU, which encourages brands to register their business and open branches in Romania.

The local B2B market is actively growing. More and more iGaming firms appear in the country. They create jobs and order hosting, development, and technical support services.

Responsible Gambling Support

The key requirement of ONJN is adherence to the principle of a conscious attitude toward the placement of bets:

  • provision of information in the Romanian language;
  • verification of the user's age and solvency;
  • addition of Responsible Gambling mechanisms (time counters, self-restriction, and exclusion lists, as well as tools for controlling the cost of spins);
  • content certification, and much more.


Casino business in the Balkans: features

It is the second most populous country in the region and is also a leader in terms of GGR.

At the end of 2022, the casino niche generated more than €650 thousand. It is one of the most promising sectors of the Greek economy, along with construction, tourism, and utility services.

Features of the Industry Regulation

The HGC authority began its work in 2013. Before 2020, there were no significant changes. The market remained of little interest to investors due to high tax rates and strict requirements for applicants.

About 3 years ago, the government reorganised the sphere and started to offer 2 types of permits to choose from:

  • for web betting;
  • for all other kinds of casino activities.

The cost of the document depends on the type of gambling business — from €2 million to €3 million for the entire validity period of the certificate (7 years). The amount is divided into 7 parts and transferred to the treasury at the beginning of each year.

Entrepreneurs are obliged to:

  • provide a bank guarantee of €100 thousand (the sum is accumulated in a special account);
  • register an authorised capital of €200 thousand.

Serious financial requirements did not scare potential investors away. On the contrary, in 2020–2023, many software vendors entered the market, appreciating the prospects of gambling in the country.

The HGC licence was granted to the following top providers:

  • Games Global;
  • Amusnet;
  • Play'n Go;
  • Evolution Gaming, and many others.

Providers value Greece for its transparent regulation, the high popularity of casino entertainment among locals, and its well-developed IT infrastructure.

Responsible Gambling

The country followed the path of Great Britain, establishing strict requirements related to advertising and bonuses for players:

  • the maximum cost of a spin in slot machines is €2;
  • the minimum rotation time for digital reels is 3 seconds (the Quick Spin mode is prohibited);
  • the maximum size of a jackpot is €50,000.

It is possible to promote the placement of bids in casinos and betting shops only on one website. Distributors have the right to cooperate only with those affiliates that have been registered with HGC.


All forms of gambling were legalised in 2014 after the country joined the EU.

After that, large investments were attracted to the region, both in the iGaming sector and related industries (construction of leisure complexes and data centres).

The regulatory framework of Croatia is developed on the European example: everything is fair and transparent, and the maximum protection level for players and B2B partners is guaranteed.

What the Local Market Offers

Let us consider why entrepreneurs choose this jurisdiction:

  1. Legalisation of all types of gambling. It includes the acceptance of bets on sports events, bookmaker’s prize pool management, as well as the launch of a poker room and an online casino. Fantasy sports have not yet been regulated in the country, and the right to organise lottery draws has been given to the Hrvatska Lutrija monopolist.
  2. Stability. Croatia is a region with a developing economy and a constantly growing GDP level. The income of the population is also increasing. Locals are happy to place bets, which bring good profits to casino operators.
  3. Low taxes. Bookmakers pay only 5% of GGR. The following well-known brands have opened representative offices in the country: 888 Holdings, William Hill, Sportradar, and many others. The GGR tax for iGaming platforms is 15%.

The licence is issued for 15 years. Thanks to this, entrepreneurs can make long-term plans, scale their businesses, and launch interesting projects.

The main problem of the Croatian market remains the exorbitant cost of permits. The annual fee is €400 thousand. This is one of the highest rates in Europe.

Gambling Business Prospects

The niche in Croatia is high-margin due to the rapid growth of the industry in general and the influx of foreign capital. The income that operators get from managing a casino or a sportsbook platform fully covers certification fees and tax deductions.

Investors consider the country a stable one due to its membership in the EU and NATO.

At the beginning of 2022, the Croatian Ministry of Finance announced tightening of the regulation. Changes have been made to the payment policy. Business owners are required to carry out AML scanning for all money transfers that exceed €2,500.


This is a dynamically developing market that works in accordance with European legislation and has a strong monopoly:

  1. Casino. The issuance of permits is the responsibility of the National Gaming Supervision Commission. Such entertainment in the online format is prohibited in the jurisdiction. The only operator of land-based slot machines is the Melco-Hard Rock Consortium. Its licence is valid until 2030.
  2. Lotteries. The right to organise raffles belongs to the OPAP state enterprise. The Nicosia Race Club has a monopoly on the acceptance of bids on horse racing. The company has been considered a leader in the racing segment since 1973.
  3. Wagering. Offline and offline bookmakers are legal in the region. The registration and issuance of licences are carried out by the National Betting Authority.

The sportsbook sector is the most popular in Cyprus. The growth of the market took place in the “Covid” years of 2020–2021.

The NBA certificate covers athletic betting and eSports disciplines. Distributors can apply for annual or biennial permits. Their cost is €30,000 and €45,000 respectively.

Such a low price, together with a loyal fiscal burden, attracts bookmakers from all over Europe. They open branches, rent offices, and hire employees, thus creating significant added costs for the island's economy.

Income tax is only 10% of GGR. Entrepreneurs are also required to pay a monthly fee of 3%. The authorities are redirecting money to social needs and infrastructure-building in the country.


Launch a gaming site in the Balkans: advantages

This is a small but emerging market with stable legislation. The main advantage is its membership in the EU.

This simplifies interaction with B2B partners and gives confidence to investors. All types of casino entertainment are allowed in the region, and there are no restrictions on the number of certificates that can be obtained.

The cost of a document varies from €50,000 to €70,000.

Owners of iGaming sites need to make an initial contribution of €300,000. The money can be spent on the rental of premises, acquisition of server equipment, and other needs. It is important for the government that funds remain in the local economy and are not transferred to offshore accounts.

The State Gambling Commission is responsible for the issuance of permits. The regulator has accredited the eCOGRA international organisation as its structural unit. The laboratory deals with online monitoring of the niche.

The Main Things about Casino Entertainment in the Balkans

Such a pastime is allowed in all countries in the region except for Albania.

  • The local market has different approaches to legalisation and is known for the partial monopolisation of the industry. In almost all jurisdictions, lottery drawings are organised by state-owned companies.
  • The Balkans can be characterised by a well-developed IT sector and an average level of competition in the gambling field. A comfortable political and economic environment affects the rapid capitalisation of online casino projects and high return on investment. Most countries in the region are members of the EU.
  • Romania is the leader in terms of the size of the GGR indicator, number of registered brands, and interest in gambling among the locals. Many software vendors work here. The main reason why the country is so attractive for entrepreneurs is the low cost of a B2B permit.
  • Stable growth of the wagering business is observed in Croatia, Greece, Bulgaria, and Cyprus. These markets are characterised by low competition, loyal legislation, and a responsible approach to gambling.

Experts of the CASEXE studio provide assistance in licensing and launching iGaming projects from scratch. We offer our clients to buy a turnkey online casino, a White Label platform, a Bitcoin resource, and other profitable solutions.

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Author: Matt Grant
iGaming business expert
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