Monthly Newsletter – August 2019

Europe’s monthly online gambling news

EGBA reaction to Norway court ruling on payment blockings

On 16 August, the Oslo City Court ruled on two of three claims brought by Entercash, a payments service provider, and the European Gaming and Betting Association (EGBA) against Norway’s payment blocking measures in the online betting sector. The Oslo court ruled against EGBA and Entercash’s two subsidiary claims and found there was a sufficient legal basis in Norwegian law for the Norwegian gaming authority to block online betting payments from Norwegian citizens to Entercash. The court has not ruled on the main third claim that the payment transaction ban is an illegal restriction on the EU freedom to provide services within the European Economic Area (EEA).

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EGBA partner with Clarion on responsible gambling webinar series

EGBA is partnering with Clarion Gaming to participate in their ongoing Responsible Gambling Webinar Series, which provides a platform for gambling operators and other stakeholders to discuss a range of topics related to responsible gambling, including customer interaction, exclusion tools and advertising. EGBA will moderate a webinar discussion about responsible advertising on 8 January 2020. The series runs from August until January 2019.

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UEFA reinforces anti-match-fixing campaign

UEFA’s commitment to fighting match-fixing, protecting the integrity of competitions and ensuring the trust of football fans and stakeholders was highlighted at the latest meeting of the UEFA working group on match-fixing in Istanbul, held on the occasion of the UEFA Super Cup match. Participants discussed a framework for future steps to be taken on key integrity themes included in UEFA’s overall strategy for the period until 2024, Together for the Future of Football.

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National developments

Austria: Lower Austria submits sports betting regulations to European Commission

Lower Austria, the country’s largest state, has submitted sports betting legislation to regulate online and retail betting to the European Commission. The Lower Austria Sports Betting Act aims to update the state’s laws governing wagering, with the current legislation, the Law on the Activities of Totalizators and Bookmakers, having been in place since 1978. Though the regulations have been updated six times since 2001, the Lower Austrian government explained that a comprehensive update was necessary as a result of technological developments in the industry, and to set out specific regulations for online bookmakers and betting terminals hosted in outlets such as tobacconists, video stores and restaurants.

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Finland: Veikkaus ‘poor taste’ triggers debate on ‘Phase 2’ of Finnish gambling reforms

Debate on reforming wholesale Finnish gambling laws has arisen, as state-owned monopoly Veikkaus suspends its advertising activity until the end of September, implementing a full scale review of its marketing strategy. Veikkaus’ latest marketing campaign, which depicts a ‘therapist character’, advising patients that ‘cravings for thrills and winnings are normal behaviour’, has been chastised for mocking Finnish mental health services, with Veikkaus further criticised for failing to meet its social responsibility standards as the national gambling monopoly incumbent.

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Germany: No changes to German State Treaty following European Commission’s criticism

The state of Nordrhein-Westfalen claims criticism of the third amended State Treaty on Gambling by the European Commission will not lead to any major changes to the wording of the legislation. Earlier this month it emerged that EC general director Lowri Evans had cast doubt as to how effective the Treaty would be in channeling operators and players into the legal market. Evans in particular took issue with the short duration of licences, which are due to be awarded early in 2020 and in effect until 30 June 2021, after which a new regulatory framework is expected to be implemented. This was written in a so-called ‘blue letter’, a formal notice that acts as a precursor to the launch of infringement proceedings against a European Union member state.

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Germany: Germany sports betting licensees must cut online casino ties

Online sport betting operators interested in acquiring a new German license will have to demonstrate that they have no connection to German-facing online casino operations. Earlier in July, the Regional Council of Darmstadt in the German state of Hesse – which has been tasked with overseeing Germany’s transition to a regulated online betting market – issued guidelines for companies interested in applying for a German sports betting license.

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Italy: Communications regulator tells government to drop ad ban

AGCOM, Italy’s communications and media authority has written a letter to the Lega-5Star coalition government stating that the Dignity Decree ban on gambling advertising should be formally reviewed. As the regulatory department tasked with monitoring licensed incumbents advertising behaviour under the Decree’s regime, AGCOM governance has warned Lega-5Star that its ban on gambling advertising is ‘unconstitutional and incompatible’ with Italian business laws. Stating its case, AGCOM details that the Decree’s mandate ‘harms Italian gambling concessionaires’, and further creates an unbalanced marketplace for new incumbents that may have recently acquired gambling licences.

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Malta: MGA sets up a Commercial Communications Committee and publishes Guidelines

The Malta Gaming Authority (the “MGA”) is hereby announcing that for the purpose of ensuring the Gaming Commercial Communications Regulations (S.L. 583.09) are being adhered to, the Authority has set-up a Committee (Commercial Communications Committee). The main functions of the Committee lie in reviewing commercial communications brought to its attention and assessing any possible breaches. In addition, the MGA is hereby issuing the Commercial Communications Guidelines (the “Guidelines”), as part of the MGA’s mission of placing player protection and responsible gaming on top of its regulatory agenda.

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Malta: MGA establishes new Sports Integrity Unit

The MGA is announcing the creation of a new Sports Integrity Unit as part of an initiative to increase focus and resources towards the fight against the manipulation of sports competitions. The Sports Integrity Unit’s role will consist of the gathering of intelligence and information relating to suspicious betting and will serve as a liaison with local and foreign regulatory authorities, law enforcement agencies, betting monitoring systems, sporting bodies and gaming operators in order to investigate irregular and suspicious betting activity.

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Netherlands: Dutch minister publishes secondary gambling regulations

Dutch Minister for Legal Protection Sander Dekker has published secondary regulations for the country’s igaming market, with industry stakeholders able to submit comments on the proposed rules until 18 September. The draft regulations confirm the licence fee for operators will be set at €45,000 (£40,994/$50,135), with an additional €8,000 charge set for making amendments to existing licences. As part of each licence application, the country’s gambling regulator the Kansspelautoriteit (KSA) will look at previous violations of gambling laws in all jurisdictions, not just the Netherlands.

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Sweden: Regulator to meet operators over regulatory issues

Disgruntled gaming companies will have the opportunity to air concerns and clarify regulatory issues next month after Swedish gambling regulator Spelinspektionen invited licensees to a key meeting with various authorities. Representatives from the regulator, as well as the Swedish Tax Agency, Financial Police and the Swedish Consumer Agency will all be in attendance at the 17 September meeting. “The purpose of the meeting is to increase the understanding between the market players and the authorities,” the watchdog said.

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UK: Gambling Commission introduces new rules to make gambling fairer and safer

New rules added to the licence conditions and codes of practice (LCCP) will raise standards for alternative dispute resolution (ADR), strengthen requirements on how licensees identify and interact with customers who may be at risk of or experiencing gambling harms, and improve the transparency of funding for research, prevention and treatment. The latest changes follow open consultations and will come into force later this year and next year.

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UK: Gambling Commission launches consultation about gambling online with credit cards

Following a recent call for evidence on the issue of gambling online with credit cards, the Gambling Commission has confirmed it will be holding a twelve-week consultation to begin in mid-August. One approach would be to ban gambling online with credit cards. However, the public and all other stakeholders will be consulted on other options, including restricting the use of credit cards. Deadline for replies: 06 November 2019.

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UK: Voluntary whistle-to-whistle ban comes into force

An industry-wide voluntary ‘whistle-to-whistle’ advertising ban came into force on 1 August, which will see bookmakers ban all TV betting adverts during pre-watershed live sport broadcasts. The self-enforced ban, will not be applicable to horseracing and greyhound racing coverage, was suggested by the Industry Group for Responsible Gambling (IGRG).

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