European Blocklists Surpass 110,000 URLs

This VIXIO blog is co-authored by Ryan Heslop, Data Analyst and Boguslaw Kott, Analyst

The number of blocklisted online gambling domains across 18 reporting European countries, as monitored by VIXIO GamblingCompliance, soared by 21.4 per cent to more than 110,000 in the last six months of 2020 as online play surged throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

The total number of visible blocklisted websites across Europe came to 113,865 as of December 31, 2020, more than double the number two years previously, representing a year-on-year hike of 42.7 percent, or 34,073 domains. 

There are different forms of blocklists, but fundamentally they are lists of domain names that are operating illegally within a jurisdiction. Several jurisdictions require such websites to be barred by internet service providers (ISPs) and, in some cases, payment processors. 

The gambling industry was already capitalising on online gaming’s potential before COVID-19 amplified this focus, with operators becoming increasingly reliant on the online sector. Thereby, regulators have been seeking methods to suppress unlicensed online activity, with increasingly versatile blocklists maintaining their popularity within Europe. 

Blocklisting legal tools are currently being amended in Italy and Poland, but are at different stages of their implementation. Italy’s so-called “August Decree” is already in force, but is to be supplemented by the regulator’s decrees. In Poland, a bill amending the Gambling Act is still being processed in parliament.

Poland already has the second-largest blocklist in Europe behind Turkey, which as of December 2020 stood at 12,813 domains, with more than 4,000 domains added in the last year. 

The Polish government stated that since the blocklist was introduced three years ago, only slightly more than 3 per cent of objections to decisions have been filed, with all contested blocking decisions confirmed by the administrative courts, indicating that the tool is kept under strict but fair control.

A bill introduced by the government looks set to streamline the process of blocklisting. Instead of approving blocklist entries on a ministerial level, a designated body of the National Tax Administration will decide on issuing, changing or revoking blocking decisions, allowing for decisions to be made more easily and quickly.

The bill would also extend the scope of the blocklist by introducing the banning of websites that advertise and promote illegal gambling. The bill will have to be further adopted by the Senate and signed into law by the President in due course.

Italy’s 2020 “August Decree” repealed website blocking provisions that had already been established in a 2006 law, and practically repeated them in a simplified form. 

The current law allows the Italian regulator, the Customs and Monopolies Agency (ADM), to order ISPs to block illegal gambling websites, gambling advertising sites and websites offering software that helps to evade measures ordered by the regulator. 

Under the law, the ADM is expected to issue a decree(s) implementing the above-mentioned provisions; however, until then, it is believed that those provisions issued under the 2006 law are still binding, as suggested by the latest blocklist published in March 2021. 

Italy’s blocklisting activities have been decelerating sharply in the last few years, with only 265 URLs added in 2020 compared with 910 website additions in 2019 and more than 1,000 domains in 2018. 

Nevertheless, it has the fourth biggest blocklist in Europe, with a blocklist containing approximately 8,972 websites as of December 2020, more than Greece’s, Latvia’s, Estonia’s, Romania’s and Bulgaria’s blocklists combined.

To find out more about how VIXIO GamblingCompliance can help you stay ahead of the curve with our blocklist monitoring tracker, providing daily alerts for any changes to blocklists from 18 jurisdictions, click here.

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