One of the cat and mouse games we play in the e-gaming space is with the regulating authorities is the blocking/anti-blocking game.
To give you some background on what’s going on we need to look at the legal landscape in the EU for e-gaming.
Most EU member states try to enforce a (state-owned) monopoly on offline and online gaming. The EU on the other hand is pro-competition and opening up the markets on equal terms for privately owned operators with a licensing process for each country in line with articles 59 and 60 of the Rome treaty.
Article 59. Within the framework of the provisions set out below, restrictions on freedom to provide services within the Community shall be progressively abolished during the transitional period in respect of nationals of Member States who are established in a State of the Community other than that of the person for whom the services are intended.
The Council may, acting by a qualified majority on a proposal from the Commission, extend the provisions of this Chapter to nationals of a third country who provide services and who are established within the Community.
Article 60. Services shall be considered to be ‘services’ within the meaning of this Treaty where they are normally provided for remuneration, in so far as they are not governed by the provisions relating to freedom of movement for goods, capital and persons.
‘Services’ shall in particular include:
* (a) activities of an industrial character;
* (b) activities of a commercial character;
* (c) activities of craftsmen;
* (d) activities of the professions.
Without prejudice to the provisions of the Chapter relating to the right of establishment, the person providing a service may, in order to do so, temporarily pursue his activity in the State where the service is provided, under the same conditions as are imposed by that State on its own nationals.
However, the member states hasn’t been very keen on letting a huge amount of profit from it’s fully-owned state operated lotteries, casino and betting companies be subject to outside competition. Not to mention revenue from the tax on gaming…
As you can imagine there is not a whole lot of interest from the member states to open up the monopolies and risk being subject to competitor. So the EU is taking legal action against these member states and fining them until they do open up the markets.
So not too many member states have had an open market, the exceptions being the UK and Italy. As the UK has had privately held operators in a regulated market for many years the government doesn’t have any interests to protect, but this is far from the case in the rest of the member states.
One of the quirks with what I guess one can call “reversed e-commerce” (when the customers occasionally gain money from using a service), is that the a EU citizen can use any e provider outside of the national borders, but is still still subject to national tax. Also, if a privately held operator wants to apply for a license to operate in a EU member state that decides to open up an regulated market, that operator need to withhold the tax for the customers and also pay tax on its profits.
In order to force the nationals of a member state to only play with the licensed companies in a regulated market, the strategy is to try to cut off access to other online e-gaming services by DNS-blocking (being practiced in Italy at the moment). Sweden has said that they will use IP-address level blocking in addition to DNS blocking to restrict Swedes to only access the licensed betting sites.
This really annoys me. One of the reasons Internet has become what it is today is openness, and I am very concerned that countries in the free world are now using Chinese mentality approach to protect revenue streams from gambling.
And when I get annoyed, I try to help people circumvent these communist approaches :)
Enter the Unibet Privacy Proxy
So, I decided to set up a proxy in the cloud – in this case using Amazon EC2. I spent an evening setting up a Linux image with Squid (a proxy server) and an Apache web server.
On the Apache web server I serve a proxy auto-configuration file that proxies only URL:s used by Unibet via the proxy. All other URL:s doesn’t use the proxy.
The Squid proxy is an open proxy, but does only proxy URL:s for Unibet servers.
Then, to simplify use and configuration, I spent a few nights writing an add-on for Firefox. I’m looking into doing the same for Internet Explorer.
I love these projects, because I learn a lot by doing them. In this case I learned a lot about both Amazon EC2 and Firefox add-on development! Hopefully I can manage to get the IE add-on done too at some point!