Monthly Newsletter – January 2020
Europe’s monthly online gambling news
EU: (WEBINAR) Responsible advertising or no advertising at all – what’s the future?
On 8 January, the European Gaming and Betting Association’s (EGBA) Secretary General, Maarten Haijer, moderated a WrB Responsible Gambling webinar: Responsible advertising or no advertising at all – what’s the future? Participants included: Martin Lycka, GVC Group; Yanica Sant, Malta Gaming Authority; Clive Hawkswood, Responsible Affiliates in Gambling (RAIG); Andrew Taylor, Advertising Standards Authority (UK). Topics discussed: What can be learned from how other industries have evolved to not target vulnerable customers and minors? When these advertising restrictions and blocks fail to be passed on to affiliates, exposing self-excluded players to gambling ads, what is the root cause? How can operators better manage their relationship with affiliates to avoid breaches? You can listen to the full webinar in the weblink below (duration: 60 minutes).
EU: (STUDY) The Effects of Voluntary Deposit Limit-Setting on Long-Term Online Gambling Expenditure
The academic journal on ‘Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking’ has published insights and learnings from a study reviewing ‘the effects of voluntary deposit limit-setting on long-term online gambling expenditure’. The study undertaken by the research team of Michael Auer, Niklas Hopfgartner and Mark D. Griffiths (Nottingham Trent University) evaluates the efficiency of responsible gambling tools in which customers set predetermined amounts on the money they wish to spend (per day/week/month) on gambling. The research was sourced from an anonymised data-set of 49,500 players’ (90% Male/10% Female) wagering across Kindred Plc’s online gambling portfolio, with engagements recorded over a period of one year.
International: FIFA enhances integrity protection efforts with new toolkit
FIFA, the global governing body for football, has launched a new and enhanced integrity toolkit as part of an ongoing effort to clamp down on the threat of match-fixing in the sport. Developed by FIFA and its dedicated Integrity Department, the toolkit includes updated and new integrity resources that can be used and implemented by key stakeholders. FIFA said the toolkit has been designed to tackle manipulation in national and regional-level matches. The toolkit includes a handbook for FIFA member associations and confederations, which the governing body said will serve as a practical guide on how to build or strengthen their own integrity initiatives.
Belgium: 360,553 Belgians on the betting blacklist in 2019
Last year saw the Excluded Persons Information System (EPIS) – the blacklist of people not allowed to frequent casinos, betting shops or online gambling sites – increase to 360.553 names. The various reasons for being on the list include one in ten who have asked for their own exclusion, or been named by a family member as representing a danger to themselves because of a gambling addiction. Otherwise, the Gaming Commission explains, a ban can be applied by a court, or by a legal representative of someone under a power of attorney. Real and online gambling sites are in any case closed to anyone under the age of 18, while casinos and slot machine arcades have a minimum age of 21.
Bulgaria: Moves to Take Control of Lottery, Boosting Tax Collection
Bulgaria is preparing legal amendments take control of lottery gaming, shutting out the current private operators in a bid to improve tax collection. Parliament’s budget committee on Thursday (23 January) approved a draft bill banning existing lottery games within three months and allowing only the state-owned Bulgarian Sports Totalizator to organize them. It puts Bulgarians’ spending on lottery tickets at about 1 billion lev ($510 million) a year — about 0.8% of economic output. The amendments, which could still change before final approval, sparked opposition from Vasil Bozhkov, one of Bulgaria’s richest people and the owner of a stake in the country’s biggest gambling company. He called it an attempt to take over his business.
Czech Republic: Czech Lottery Owner Sazka Asks EU to Probe Gambling Tax
Sazka Group AS has urged the European Commission to investigate a Czech tax on lotteries that it says unfairly grants a state subsidy to other gambling services. Sazka, owned by Czech billionaire Karel Komarek, said in a statement that it’s asked the EU’s state aid unit to rule against a 35% tax on lotteries introduced in January, which it says puts betting and casino games that pay 23% in a more favorable financial position. The Brussels-based commission said it will assess Sazka’s complaint. The Czech finance ministry said in a statement that the different tax treatment isn’t discriminatory or an illegal form of public support because different gambling services don’t directly compete.
Denmark: Regulator publishes new responsible gambling guide
Spillemyndigheden, the Danish gaming authority, has published a new guide on responsible gambling, including interpretations of how licensees should comply with responsible gambling rules. The guide states that that licence holders have an obligation to prevent problem gambling, to recognise potential problem gamblers among their players and to help those players who may have a problem with their gambling. Spillemyndigheden’s guide clarifies some existing rules put in place by executive orders on online gambling and land-based casinos. It outlines that information that must be displayed on a licensee’s website, such as a reminder that a player must be 18, access to a self-test for gambling addiction and information about treatment for gambling addiction, must be displayed anywhere the licensee offers games.
Germany: EGBA welcomes progress on Germany’s gambling regulations
The European Gaming and Betting Association (EGBA) welcomes progress on Germany’s new draft state treaty for gambling regulation, which was provisionally agreed this past week by Germany’s regional state authorities. The new treaty, if agreed at the Minister-Presidents meeting on 5 March, would replace the existing second state treaty and come into force on July 1, 2021. The objective of the new regulation is to regulate Germany’s gambling activity in an effective way and ensure gambling activity takes place within the legal, regulated gambling environment, particularly in the online sector. This will be a challenge given the very low channelling rates in the German gambling market.
Germany: Schleswig-Holstein hails “breakthrough” in German gambling talks
News that Germany’s 16 states have seemingly ended years of debate by agreeing on a new, expansive regulatory framework for gambling has been welcomed by the industry, though concerns remain over the restrictions likely to be imposed on operators. The German Sports Betting Association (DSWV) hailed the fact that a consensus had been reached, especially one which will not look to maintain a ban on online casino games. It described the Glücksspielneuregulierungsstaatsvertrags as the “first step towards modern, market-compliant gaming regulation” in Germany. However, president Mathias Dahms added, the restrictive terms set out in the regulations could hurt efforts to channel players towards legal forms of gambling.
Germany: Hesse receives 11 sportsbook licence applications
The Ministry of the Interior in the German state of Hesse has revealed that it has received eleven applications for sports betting licences, with a further seven operators making binding commitments to make submissions. Minister of the Interior Peter Beuth said that according to the current status of applications, at least 75% of operators active in the German sports betting market were intending to apply for a licence. “This is a good sign for player protection in Germany,” Beuth said.
Greece: Greece submits igaming regulations for European Commission approval
The Greek Ministry of Finance has submitted its draft gambling regulations to the European Commission as it prepares to implement new controls on the industry. The draft submission confirms that separate licences will be made available for online sports betting and other online games, priced at €3m (£2.5m/$3.4m) and €2m respectively. Each will run for seven-year terms. Must eye-catching, however, remains the strict controls put forward for random number generator (RNG) games. These would be limited to a maximum stake of €2, with the maximum profit per gaming session to be capped at €5,000. Jackpot games, meanwhile, will limited to paying out a maximum of €500,000.
Ireland: Minister warned by Revenue over tax relief for bookmakers
The Revenue Commissioners warned the Minister for Finance that reforms to betting taxes could lead to bookmakers splitting their operations in order to reduce the amount they had to pay. Changes in Budget 2020 gave bookies a €50,000-a-year relief from the tax levied on bets placed in Ireland. However, in advance of the changes – called “de minimis” reforms – being introduced, Revenue told the Department of Finance that it had “compliance concerns” about the move. An internal departmental briefing note for Paschal Donohoe says the tax authority was concerned “that it could provide a fiscal incentive for bookmaking operators to artificially arrange their operations in order to reduce their betting duty liability”.
Latvia: Self-exclusion scheme launched
Latvia’s self-exclusion scheme is now up and running, with citizens able to prohibit themselves from gambling for 12 months. The register, which is the responsibility of the Lotteries and Gambling Supervisory Authority (IAUI), was established under the Gambling and Lotteries Law and went live on 1 January. The self-exclusion can include both interactive and land-based gambling. Latvians can submit a request in writing to the regulator, or in person or in writing at the gaming site. The IAUI said in a statement: “The purpose of the register of self-denied persons is to protect the public interest and the right of natural persons to refrain from excessive gambling activities, including interactive gambling, or participation in interactive lotteries. The exclusion applies to participation in all statutory gambling and interactive lotteries.”
Malta: MGA Publishes its Interim Performance Report for the Gaming Industry for the Period January to June 2019
The Malta Gaming Authority (MGA) has published its interim performance report for the period between January to June 2019. The report reviews the performance of the MGA, highlighting major projects undertaken and key achievements throughout the same period. The report also includes a section highlighting the key performance indicators for the first half of 2019 as well as a medium-term outlook into the future, followed by a detailed report explaining key statistics for land-based and online gaming sectors.
Malta: Skills gap survey finds 730 unfilled gaming jobs in Malta
The Malta Gaming Authority (MGA)’s Information & Research Unit has found that 730 jobs have been reported as unfilled by Malta-based gaming companies as of the end of 2018 because of a skills shortage in the country. The report also found that 68% of unfilled vacancies, or 497 vacancies in total, were at the operation level. A total of 38 vacancies (5.2%) were at the top level of management, while 195 vacancies (26.7%) were in middle management. 69% of vacanies were unfilled for three months or less. The report, intended to obtain a better understanding of the existing skills gap in the gaming industry, said that the main reason vacancies went unfilled was a lack of experience from candidates, which was listed for 27% of vacancies.
Norway: Report proposes Norsk Tipping-Rikstoto merger
Norwegian horse racing monopoly Norsk Rikstoto could potentially merge with Norsk Tipping to jointly run the country’s horse racing betting monopoly, according to a new report commissioned by the country’s government. Oslo Economics, under guidance from the government, forecasted how the market could perform after Norsk Rikstoto’s monopoly rights expire in 2021. In November, the Norwegian government said it would consider transferring the country’s horse racing betting monopoly from Norsk Rikstoto to Norsk Tipping, appointing Oslo Economics to study how the market could evolve if this was enacted.
Spain: EGBA’s view on Spain’s upcoming gambling regulations
Spain’s new governing parties have indicated they intend to introduce new regulations for gambling, including additional consumer protection measures, stricter restrictions for gambling advertising and a review of taxation for online gambling. While it is too early to predict the specific measures that will be introduced, general policy commitments were outlined in a 50-page accord published on December 30 by the PSOE (Socialist) and Podemos (Left) parties who form the country’s new coalition government. EGBA welcomes policy measures which genuinely strengthen consumer protection in Spain’s online gambling market but reiterates that such measures should be balanced, proportionate and designed in such a way that they support rather than undermine the regulated market.
Sweden: Inbound Swedish reforms to toughen advertising and online casino requirements
Ardalan Shekarabi, Sweden’s Minister of Social Security, has told national media that the government is ready to publish ‘stage two’ of its regulatory approach on gambling, focusing on enforcing tougher advertising and marketing restrictions upon licensed incumbents. Recognised as one of the highest-profile MPs within the governing Socialdemokraterna (social democrats) party, Shekarabi is the former Minister of Civil Affairs, who played a key role in drafting the re-regulation of Swedish online gambling laws during 2018. Despite moving his departmental position, the government has maintained Shekarabi as a key advisor in the regulatory development of Sweden’s gambling marketplace.
Sweden: Regulator calls for higher maximum money laundering fines
Sweden’s gambling regulator, Spelinspektionen, has asked the Ministry of Finance to increase the maximum penalty that may be imposed upon a gambling operator in violation of the country’s Money Laundering Act from €1m (£847,686/$1.1m) to 10% of the business’s revenue. Spelinspektionen argued that, given the turnover of some of the larger operators active in Sweden, the current maximum level is too low to dissuade many from breaking the Act. The regulator noted, in correspondence on 20 December, that the turnover of the ten largest licensed gaming companies had turnover between SEK 173m and SEK 3.5bn in the first three quarters of 2019, making a €1m fine “not sufficiently noticeable.”
Sweden: Self-Exclusion Site Plagued By Attempted Diversions
Sweden’s Spelpaus has been beset by opportunistic affiliates that divert consumers searching for self-exclusion toward unlicensed websites, in violation of Swedish law. One example Google search by a Swedish industry executive for the Spelpaus self-exclusion system included top results that offered a list of 12 online casinos without a Swedish licence or a link to Spelpaus. The website, Curaçao-based Nya Casinon, claims it does not “encourage any Swede to play on casino or betting sites without a gaming licence”. But it complains about the fact that invoking Spelpaus means an exclusion from all categories of gambling, including lottery and bets on horse trotting, and that online casino operators have been forced to allow wait time of three seconds between each spin or game round.
UK: Gambling on credit cards to be banned from April 2020
The Gambling Commission has announced a ban on gambling businesses allowing consumers in Great Britain to use credit cards to gamble. The ban, which comes into effect on 14 April, follows the Commission’s review of online gambling and the Government’s Review of Gaming Machines and Social Responsibility Measures. A public consultation was carried out between August and November 2019. 24 million adults in Great Britain gamble, with 10.5 million of those gambling online. UK Finance estimate that 800,000* consumers use credit cards to gamble.
UK: Games warning for online operators
Online gambling operators are being reminded to check that their games meet transparency and safety standards expected by the Gambling Commission. The reminder follows discovery that six operators were offering products providing ‘feature buy-in’ facilities on slots style games. This facility gave consumers the option of staking significant amounts of money to access the bonus feature without playing the initial stages of the game. One game was charging more than £3,000 to enter the bonus feature.
UK: Gambling Commission publishes independent advice from its expert advisory groups to reduce online gambling harm
The Gambling Commission has commissioned advice from both the Advisory Board for Safer Gambling (ABSG) and the Digital Advisory Panel (DAP) to look at reducing gambling harms online. The recommendations, made in papers from each of the expert groups, include developing a better understanding of the link between game design and gambling harms, trialling new approaches to harm education through evaluation and information sharing and engaging with consumers who have gambled online to understand their experiences and help drive change.
UK: 5th edition of the Prevention of Anti-Money Laundering and Combating the Terrorist Financing guidance for casinos
The updated Money Laundering Regulations, which implement the EU 5th Money Laundering Directive, come into force on 10 January 2020. The Gambling Commission (the Commission) has now also published the 5th edition of its guidance for remote and non-remote casinos on the prevention of money laundering and combating the financing of terrorism, which comes into force immediately. As previously advised, the Commission recognises that it takes time to implement changes and we will take that into account, but we expect to see that operators have acted promptly, invested appropriately (if technology is required to accommodate the changes) and implemented changes with the requisite urgency.
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