Monthly Newsletter – June 2019

Europe’s monthly online gambling news

EGBA: Online consumers must be at the center of EU single market rules

On 27 May, European Economy ministers called on the European Commission to propose measures to modernise Europe’s single market to make it fit for purpose in the digital age. The European Gaming and Betting Association (EGBA) welcomes the Competitiveness Council’s conclusions and urges the incoming European Commission and Parliament to ensure Europe’s online consumers are put at the center of EU single market policies. Unfortunately, the current European Commission has failed to fully enforce the freedom to provide services in many online sectors – including online gambling where in 2017 it decided to shelve infringement cases in the sector.

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Maltese Gaming Authority CEO: regulatory cooperation important, EU harmonisation of the online gambling sector logical next step

Predicting how the chips would fall, in 2004 Malta became the first EU state to enact comprehensive online gaming legislation, and is now regarded as one of the foremost tried and tested jurisdictions in the world. The gaming industry in Malta represents a shade over 10 percent of the country’s GDP, according to Heathcliff Farrugia, Chief Executive Officer of the Malta Gaming Authority (MGA). While directly and indirectly employing around 10,000 people in a workforce of just over 200,000. It is already big business, and the smart money is on it getting much, much bigger. But with expansion comes responsibility and that is where the MGA comes in. With its vast experience, other EU members are looking to Malta as they seek to enact legislation themselves in an industry – as yet – not harmonised with inclusive European policy – something Mr. Farrugia sees as the next logical step.

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ESSA relaunched as the International Betting Integrity Association

Betting integrity body ESSA has relaunched as the International Betting Integrity Association with immediate effect. The move highlights the association’s desire to better reflect the global debate around betting and integrity issues and their leading role in that discussion. The association will continue to represent many of the largest regulated sports betting operators in the world with almost 50 brands feeding into its monitoring and alert platform.

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National developments

Belgium: Advertising restrictions come into force

Belgium’s licensed igaming operators are facing a number of significant restrictions on how they may advertise their offerings, with a package of controls approved in October 2018 coming into force. From June 1, online gaming operators will no longer be permitted to advertise their offerings on Belgian television. This covers A+ and B+ gaming licence holders, or casino and gaming hall licensees. These operators will only be allowed to advertise via sites licensed by the Belgian Gaming Commission (BGC), or via personalised advertising, which uses user behaviour and interest data to target players.

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Czechia: Government to introduce higher gambling taxes in 2020

The Czech Republic’s Ministry of Finance has confirmed that it will increase the tax rate on certain gambling activities in the country from January 2020. At present, the tax rate for gambling is set at 23% of gross gaming revenue (GGR) with the exception of gaming machines, which are taxed at 35% of GGR. However, the new structure will now see taxes split into three levels, according to how harmful the government perceives the activity to be. This is in line with the draft gambling tax act published in 2015. From January 1, 2020, lotteries, live games and bingo operators will be taxed at 30%, up from the current rate of 23%. The rate for fixed odds betting will also rise from 23% to 25%.

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Denmark: Regulator begins video game gambling education effort

Danish gambling regulator Spillemyndigheden has launched a new initiative aimed at improving public knowledge of gambling linked to video games, namely skin betting and so-called loot boxes. Spillemyndigheden has seen an increase in the number of parents contacting the regulator over concerns related to skin betting and loot boxes, it said, with many that do get in touch having limited or no knowledge of such activities. Loot boxes offer random rewards and can be acquired by players either through gameplay or by spending real money, while skin betting allows gamers to use virtual items from the games as collateral for wagering.

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Germany: States back Schleswig-Holstein provisional framework

A regional authority in Germany has requested a payment provider to stop processing payments from some online casinos and secondary lottery operators and promised more prohibitive payment blockings in the future. EGBA believes payment blockings are not a solution to the problems afflicting Germany’s gambling regulation – and a much more fundamental rethink is needed to develop an effective regulatory framework and bring the country’s gambling policies into the 21st century.

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Germany: Payment blockings not a solution to flaws in country’s online gambling regulation – EGBA

On 15 May, the European Gaming and Betting Association’s Dr. Katie Hartmann, Director of Legal and Regulatory Affairs, spoke at a stakeholder seminar in Dublin about proposed changes to the gambling regulations in Ireland. The seminar, organised by the Irish Department of Justice and Equality, followed the publication of the Irish Government’s Gaming and Lotteries (Amendment) Bill 2019 on 20 March 2019, which is part of a legislative package to regulate gambling activity in Ireland, including the online sector. The new bill foresees the creation of an independent gambling regulator and a number of other changes to Ireland’s gambling framework. Source: EGBA.

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Ireland: Online gambling bill progresses in Parliament

The Gaming and Lotteries (Amendment) Bill 2019, Ireland’s placeholder legislation for the country’s betting and gaming sector, has progressed to the committee stage in the Dáil Éireann. Meanwhile Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe has confirmed that work on an alternative tax system for independent bookmakers to replace the 2% turnover tax in place since January this year is ongoing. The Gaming and Lotteries (Amendment) Bill 2019 is designed to update Ireland’s 1956 Gaming and Lotteries Amendment Act by setting maximum gaming machine stakes and prizes at €10 and €750 respectively. It will also formally impose age restriction of 18 years on betting and gaming products, and set out a new, improved licensing system for lotteries.

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Italy: ADM settles on final 67 online gambling concessions

Italy’s customs and monopolies agency – ADM, the governing body overseeing Italian gambling laws is reported to have finalised its long-awaited online gambling licensing procedure. Having revised Italy’s online gambling laws to include tougher AML protections and customer requirements on registration, the ADM has settled on sanctioning 67 new online gambling concessions. As communicated last February, the ADM has renewed online licenses for Italian legacy operators, Snaitech, Lottomatica, Sisal, Eurobet, Goldbet, Stanleybet and Microgame. The legacy operators are joined by established foreign incumbents William Hill, bet365, bwin, Pokerstars and Betfair all securing new ADM approvals.

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Malta: Bet365 confirms expansion of its Malta operation

Betting and gaming giant Bet365 has confirmed that it will be relocating a substantial part of its operations from Gibraltar to Malta, thus expanding its Maltese presence. The company is currently consulting with staff about a relocation to Malta, but intends to maintain a presence in Gibraltar, the website Gaming Intelligence reports. Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said in a tweet that he welcomed the news, adding that it was envisaged that the company would be doubling its footprint in Malta.

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Netherlands: KSA chair sets January 2021 launch date for Dutch igaming market

The chairman of the Netherlands gambling regulator Kansspelautoriteit (KSA) has predicted that the country’s igaming market will open on January 1, 2021. René Jansen revealed on June 5 that he expects the Remote Gambling Act, which finally passed the country’s Senate in February after years in limbo, will come into force from July 1, 2020. From that date the regulator will be able to start processing licence applications, Jansen said, with a view to opening the market from January 2021. Work still needs to be done before the Act can come into force, with the Ministry of Security and Justice currently drafting the technical regulations that will underpin the legislation. Once this has been finalised, the KSA will be able to draft licence conditions.

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Netherlands: 183 companies register interest in Dutch igaming licence

A total of 183 businesses have registered their interest in applying for an online gaming licence in the Netherlands, according to the country’s gambling regulator. KSA asked companies eager to secure a Dutch licence to register their interest online between June 5 and June 21. On June 17 it then reported that 79 companies had registered their interest on June 17. This, it said, had jumped to 125 by June 20, with a further 58 stating their intention to apply before the June 21 deadline. More than half (89) of the registrants are foreign operators, of which 83 already hold some form of igaming licence in another country.

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Norway: EGBA brings case against payment blockings

On 10 June, EGBA, along with Entercash payments processor, brought a case against the Norwegian Ministry of Culture in Oslo District Court over the Norwegian government’s policy of seeking to block online gambling payments. EGBA believes payment blocking infringes on European Union law and the freedom of payment processors to do business across the European Economic Area (EEA).

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Spain: Spanish people back gambling sector, CEJUEGO study claims

More than nine out of 10 adults in Spain see gambling as a socially acceptable pastime according to a new report published by the country’s leading industry trade group. CEJUEGO’s ‘Gaming and Society’ report shows that 29 million people – 84.8% of people aged 18-75 years old – played one or several types of gambling products in 2018. According to 500 people surveyed as part of the study, some 92% see gaming as a leisure option, likening the money wagered to the price of a ticket for a show.

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Spain: DGOJ prioritises RG efforts in new three-year strategy

Spanish gambling regulator Dirección General de Ordenación del Juego (DGOJ) has published its new three-year strategy, setting out plans to ensure the industry operates in a socially responsible manner while allowing licensees to develop innovative new products and services. The new Charter of Services, which comes into effect this year and runs until 2022, sees the DGOJ set out four priority areas for the period.

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Sweden: Young adults dominate self-exclusion sign-ups

Nearly half of those who have signed up to the Swedish gambling self-exclusion register are between the ages of 25 and 34 years old, national gambling regulator Spelinspektionen said on May 31. In revealing that the number of individuals who have been added to the register has surpassed 35,000, the watchdog said that 40% of those who had self-excluded fitted into the age category.

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Sweden: Swedish authorities announce anti money laundering collaboration

Swedish gambling regulator the Spelinspektionen is one of 16 authorities across the country that have united to increase protocols to counter money laundering and terrorist financing. Coming as a result of a new national risk assessment to identify and assess Swedish authorities’ challenges in the area, it was stressed that there is a need for clearer roles and increased cooperation to strengthen the’ ability to prevent and manage the challenges that exist.

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Switzerland: Authorities to block foreign-based gambling sites from July 1st

Switzerland will next week implement one of Europe’s strictest gambling laws, essentially blocking foreign-based companies from the Swiss market and forcing the country’s online gamblers to use domestic sites, Bern said on Monday. In a statement, the federal commissions in charge of gambling, lotteries and betting said they would soon publish a “blacklist” of online gambling sites that would be blocked as of July 1st.

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UK: Bookmakers pledge £100m for problem gambling

The UK’s biggest gambling firms are offering the government a significant increase in the money they contribute to tackling problem gambling. The owners of William Hill, Coral Ladbroke, Betfair Paddy Power, Skybet and Bet 365 will offer to increase the voluntary levy on their gambling profits. They have offered to up the levy from 0.1% to 1% over the next five years. The new level would eventually raise £100m per year for gambling charities. Last year, the voluntary levy raised £10m. The firms made the pledge in a letter to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS).

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UK: Unibet first UK operator to integrate blocking software into self-exclusion process

Unibet, part of Kindred Group, is working with the software company Gamban, to become the first UK bookmaker to integrate blocking software into the self-exclusion process. The extended collaboration means an innovative approach to further help people who self-exclude on their Unibet website. Kindred will offer Gamban’s blocking software for an exclusion period which mirrors the self-exclusion length on-site and all customers will have unlimited access to the software free of charge.

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