The History Of The Development Of Gambling Business In Estonia

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September 7, 2022
15 minutes

Estonian legislation about gambling business for several decades has undergone fundamental changes and can serve as a good example of adrerence to the interests of entrepreneurs and ordinary lovers. One hand, the state authorities legalized all types of gambling entertinment, on the other, the prequiples of the responsible game. This approach brings fruits, allowing estonia to form a significant part of the budget due to taxes.

Now in the smalest baltic state, onre not exceeding the territory of the moscow region, only 1.3 million people live. According to official assessment, 4% of the adult population is fond of gembling in this country. For them there are more than 50 terrestrial gambling establishments and over 20 online casinos.

The history of the nargin gambling business

Estonia became the first republic as part of the ussr, where legal casinos appeared. One of the gambling establishments opened on board the ferry "georg uts" in 1989 and attracted mainly foreign tourists from the scandinavian countries. It was the flagship of estonian shipping company, designed for one-time carriage of 1,200 passengers and cruised tallinn – helsinki – tallinn.

In the same year, the first land casino was created in the capital. It opened the doors for visitors at the palace hotel in the city center. Profitable business organized an entrepreneur from finland pekka salmi, and the rates were taken exclusively in the currency. Igor’s institution has gained popularity among wealthy residents of tallinnn and foreign tourists, and in 1991 he has the first competitor – casino monte carlo.

The legendary ferry "georg uts" on the postcard of soviet times

In the early 1990s, after the proclamation of independence, there were chairs of slot machines in the country, and the first major operators olympic, kristiine, play-in casino group appeared.

First law on gambling

The mid-1990s, several major networks were formed in estonia, and the question of regulating the gembling industry by the authorities. In 1994, representatives of the state assembly (riigikogu) adopted a law on lotteries, and next year viii, the convocation of parliament voted for approval of gambling. On july 3, 1995, the president of the republic of lennart-georg mary put his signature under documents.

The first president of estonia lennart-georg mary in 1995 signed a law on gambling

Formally, the state has consolidated the monopoly right to engage in the organization of games and distribute licenses to such activities among commercial companies. The document entered the classification of gambling entertainment. These were related to them: for good luck, or case (automata, roulette, bone and t.D.), for the ability (poker, blackjack and others, where the victory depends, including from the skills of the participants), as well as tote (sport rates).

The provisions recorded in the law described the basic rights and obligations of gambling owners, their visitors and regulatory authorities:

  • To enter the market, the operator is operating within a license operating within 10 years. He must confirm permission to work a specific gambling establishment every 5 years. The distribution of licenses is entrusted with a specially established committee of finance by the minister of finance.
  • The minimum amount of the authorized capital of the company engaged in the organization of gambling is 2 million kroons (about 175 thousand dollars). State duty for issuing a license – 600 thousand ($ 50,000).
  • In the ground-based institution must be installed at least 4 playing tables and / or 8 devices.
  • Rates are kept on takens that can be exchanged for money at the casino cashier. The operator is not entitled to provide visitors a loan for the game.
  • Persons who have reached 21 years old have ben allowed to participate in gambling entertainment. Owners and casino employees are prohibited to play in their institution.
  • For violation of the law, cash fins are provided for up to 1 million kroons (more than 85 thousand dollars).

For owners of institutions that have already acted on the territory of estonia by the time of adoption of the law, it was planned to postpone up to 6 monhs on the execution of the official license.

The object of taxation was the equipment installed in the gambling hall. For each table, the operator was obliged to pay 10,000 kroons, and for the slot machine – 3000. Such rates last until 2002. The legislators decided to increase the tax one and a half times – up to 5,000 kroons for each automatic and up to 15,000 for a playing table.

Redistribution of state revenues from gambling business

One of the main advantages declared in the organization of gambling for estonia was the receipt of additional funds to the country’s budget. Until 2004, a rule was operating in which 5% of taxes remained in the execution of the region (parish or city), where the institution was physically held. Then all the money began to be listed in the state budget. At the same time, legislators clearly prescribed the target appointment of these funds.

Most of all the money was sent to the needs of culture – 46% of the total amount of income. 37.4% were deducted to educational and sports programs, 12.7% – on social payments, 3.9% – to the estonian red cross foundation. For many years, government officials perceived such a state of affairs as a given, however, in 2020, officials and ordinary citizens overestimated the importance of the gambling industry for society.

In the social affairs of estonia wright kuouse recognized the dependence of the state budget from the taxes from the state budget companies

In the spring of 2020, a state of emergency was introduced in the country due to the distribution of coronavirus and is strictly limited to visiting public places. Tax revenues from gambling business fell by 30%, which led to the freezing of a number of social programs aimed at supporting children, retirees and disabled. Individual projects in the field of culture and education was suspended. The depeuty minister of social affairs wright kuouse publicly recognized the fact that the fall in the tax revenues from the casino due to the constraints related to the pandemic, paralyzed the country’s economy.

Legalization of online gambling and tightening requirements for operators

A significant milestone in the formation of modern gembling-industry in estonia has become legislative changes adopted in 2008. The definition of a remote gambling was recorded in the legal field, which was the first step towards the legalization of online casino. The law envisaged other changes in the current system, but the authorities had to act in a difficult situation.

On the one hand, from the beginning of 2000, the number of gambling institutions increased annually in the country, revenues to budget increased. If in 2001 in estonia, 2200 automata were registered, their number was 5165 units. In total, 170 gambling institutions worked in the country, 74 of them were located in tallinn. The increase in the number of casinos and increasing tax rates allowed the state to increase the fees from 88 million kroons in 2000 to 466.7 million in 2007.

At the same time, dissatisfied with public organizations requiring fully banning the money for money. Activists held several public action and unleashed a large-scale campaign against casino in the media.

In such conditions, parliamentarians laid the foundation for legalization of online institutions. Were forced to tighten the requiers for operators as much as possible, and subsequenly and clearly register in the document the right of ussers to self-compliance from the number of clients of gambling sites.

Ground casinos and slot machines halls

In 2021, in the register of the tax and customs department of the the republic of estonia, which now serves as a regulator in the gambling market, 23 operators were listed. The activity of each company is strictly prescribed in the resolution. A few directions can be enshrined at the organizer of gambling.

To contain terrtestrial institutions on the territory of the country have the right to only three companies: olympic entertainment group, novoloto and best4u.

Another operator – aktsiasaselts pafer – allowed to organize gambling under the trading brand paf on board estonian passenger ships. At the same time, the country has not historically not a clear division on the casino and halls of automata. Formally, all institutions with classic gambling entertainment are called the first word.

Olympic casino

Olympic casino entertainment group as – the oldest and largest operator in estonia. This company in 1993 founded a 28-year-old local entrepreneur armin kara. Receipt of the first income alloded him in 1995 to invest invest in the hotel business, which even stronger the position of the institition in the market. In 1997, olympic flagship casino opened at the reval park hotel.

Estonian multimillionaire armin karu began to engage in gambling business at 28 years of age

In the early 2000s, armin cara began to expand his own business outside estonia. Casino and slot machines under the promoted brand olympic appeared in lithuania, latvia, belarus, poland, romania, slovakia and ukraine. In 2010 – in italy and malta. In parallel, the bookmakers and sports bars opened under the olybet brand, work was carried out on creating online casino and betting sites.

Acting with such a scope, karu became one of the richest people in estonia. In 2018, the azart empire created by him was purchased by the european concern odyssey europe. The cost of the transaction was estimated at 288 million euros. At this point, the share of olympic casino operator in the gambling market was 67%.

By 2021, 23 casinos were operating on the territory of estonia under the signboard olympic and 19 olybet sports bars. The largest network since 2016 is considered a luxurious institution in the five-star hilton tallinn park hotel in the center of the capital. It was created in the best traditions of las vegas clubs. On the area of 1600 kv.M played 14 tables for playing roulette, blackjack, poker and bakkar. There are arout hundreds of automata production novomatic, igt, aristocrat and other legendary providers.

International poker tournaments are held here, the loyalty program is valid for regular visitors.

Luxury interiors olympic park casino in tallinn hotel hilton

Playing tables instal back in 2 casino network – olympic casino olümpia and olympic casino tartu. The rest of the geses are invited to experience luck on automata. In total, 17 gambling institutions are located in tallinn, in tartu – 3, 1 in yoevi, narva and pärnu.

Fenikss (fenix)

The fenikss brand belongs to the novoloto operator. He works in estonia since 1996 and is part of the concern novomatic group. In 2019, novoloto held a transaction on the absorption of the grand prix casino network, due to which he increased its market share up to 15%. In the same year, the chairman of the board of the theater of the european economy urve palo, who stated that it was going to fasten the main competitor – olympic casino.

Novoloto chapter of the benera of novoloto urla palo has adopted a proposal to work in the company to destroy the monopoly of olympic casino in estonia

Currently, novoloto controls the network of 18 slot machine halls. 10 of them are located in tallinn, 2 in narva, 1 in tartu, pärnu, rakvere, viljandi, yoevi and kohtla-järve. Before coronavirus pandemic, the country worked 22 fenix’s gaming halls, and the company’s plans were the opening of a major executive class casino. So she was going to challenge the leader of the estonian industry azart olympic casino.

The operator is engaged in the active promotion of the bookmaker fenixbet and from 2020 takes the sport rates on the internet on the portal of the same name. The total amount of gambling tax paid by the establishment in the state budget in the 2020th, amounted to 5 million euros.

Fenikss game clubs in estonia are characterized by a modest design

Another fast-growing activity of the company is the promotion of its own licensed online casino. His strong competitive advantage is the legendary in the directory of the legendary video gallets of the production of the parent studio novomatic group.


The founder of the citycasino brand in 2003 was the limited liability company cityclub. In just a few years the operator managed to create a second largest network of game halls in estonia.

By 2008, the company ruled 23 institutions in which 10 tables and 908 devices were installed.

In 2008, the owners of the cityclub llc, in 5 years in line with at least 300 million kroons (about 23 million dollars), suddenly initiated a bankruptcy procedure. They passed the property of the unknown company best4u, at that time registered in a small farm on territory of valga county in the south of estonia.

The new company retained the promoted brand, but could not develop the previous pace and lost the advantage in the market received by the predcessor. Now it is a small network of four round-the-the-clock halls in tallinnn and one instittion in pärnu, which are designed for players with lowest. Atronic, admiral, igt, merkur and wms with bets from 1 eurotzent are located in city casino premises. All devices are connected to a single jackpot system.

Estonian best4u operator manages 5 halls of slot machines in tallinn and pärnu and 2 online casinos

In 2020, the company listed into the state treasury about 1 million euros in taxes. Also, the operator belongs to the citycasino and bally’s online casino operating in the domain zone of estonia.


Estonian operator aktsiaaselts pafer is part of the finnish concern aands penningautomatforenging, promoting the services in the international gambling market under the paf brand. The parent company specializes in conducting gambling on board cruise liners in the baltic and north seas, takes on the internet for sports on the internet and develops its own online casino. The same services also provide a subsidiary organization in estonia.

Aktsiaaselts pafer manages a gambling establishment, which is located on the 11-deck ferry princess anastasia.

This is a cruise ship, accommodating up to 2500 people and running between 4 cities: tallinn, st. Petersburg, stockholm, helsinki. Passenger-filled liner can be compared with a small resort, where everyting you need is presented for a comfortable stay. There are bars, restaurants, discos, there are entertainment centers and cinema, spa area with sauna and swimming pool, numerous shops.

11-deck cruise liner "princess anastasia" with paf casino on board

Casino is located on the eighth deck of the ferry and takes visitors only at night during the movement of the liner between the european capitals. It has slot machines and tables for roulette, poker and blackjack installed. Due to the fact that guests from many countries are gathering on the vessel, the operator is especially carefully related to the recruitment of personnel. Working in the gambling area of ​​the croupier speak in different languages ​​and strictly observe international standards in the field of gambling.

Sevel times a year, the operator in conjunction with moby spl, which owns ferry, organizes special vip cruises for gambling fans. This is a special kind of janquet tours duration from 2 to 4 nights called lucky cruises. Travelers are invited to deposit from 1000 to 10,000 euros for a casino game, for which are provided with free accommodation in cabins of different class and discounts for services.

American roulette, blackjack table and slot machines in paf casino on the ferry princess anastasia

Depending on the chosen category of the janket tour, the client assumes obligations at minimal rags on the roulette (from 1 to 10 euros) and for card tables (from 10 to 100 euros), as well as for the total time sport on the game.

Online casino with estonian license

According to estonian legislation, the permission for gambling on the internet does not imply crushing on the organization of online casinos and interactive sites for sports betting. For this reason, most of the official sites develop both directions.

In total, in the register of the tax and customs department of estonia, there are information about 18 online gambling operators and more than 30 permitted domains.

The most famous international brands that have received official permission to work with the internet audience include bet365, betsafe, bravio, grandx, kingswin, ninjacasino, optibet, pokerstars, triobet, unibet and others. All of them have an interface in estonian and are obliged to clearly follow the principles of the responsible game.

With an increase in the popularity of online casino, which made gambling entertainment with the most accessible wide audience, there is an increase in the number of citizens who wished to restrict access to such sites. In 2015, the names of 7640 people were kept in the register of self-slippers. In the 2020s, their number exceeded 12 thousand. Estonian citizens have the right to submit a request for an exception to the clients of gambling institutions for a period of 6 to 36 months. After the specified period expires, access to gambling entertainment does not automatically open. To remove the ban, you need to contact a written statement to the tax and customs department.

Estonian legislation in the field of regulating online gambling is recognized by experts the most tough in europe. Operators are required to have authorized capital in the amount of at least 1 million euros and to form a reserve fund for paying. Money can be credited to the client’s account only with bank transfer. And the entire software submitted to the online casino must be checked in international technical laboratories.

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