Monthly Newsletter – November 2019

Europe’s monthly online gambling news

EU: EGBA publishes overview map of Europe’s licensing models for online gambling

Looking back 10 years ago, most EU member states had either no regulations at all for online gambling or online gambling regulation was based on a monopoly model which only permitted state-owned entities to provided online gambling in that country. In 2009, 21 of the current EU member states had either monopolies or prohibitions, while only 7 EU member states had multi-license regimes to enable private online gambling companies to obtain a license to provide their services in that country. Fast forward to today and the situation has changed dramatically, with the overwhelming majority of EU member states now having adopted multi-license regimes. 26 EU member states have a multi-license regime, with only 1 EU member state (Finland) still retaining an exclusive monopoly model and 1 EU member state (Slovenia) having no online gambling regulations at all.

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EU: Combatting corruption in sport – European Council adopts conclusions

The European Council, on 21 November, adopted conclusions on combatting corruption in sport. The main aim of the conclusions is to suggest how the EU and its member states and the sports movement can contribute to achieving integrity and fairness in sport. They recognise that while corruption in sport is not a new phenomenon, there is no overall EU approach to anti-corruption measures in sport. Corruption is recognised in the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) as one of the ‘areas of particularly serious crimes with a cross-border dimension’. High profile corruption cases in recent years have shown the potential damage corruption can cause to the reputation of sport for integrity and fair play.

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International: Problem gambling now regulators’ biggest concern – IAGR report

Problem gambling has replaced consumer protection as the main concern for regulators around the world according to new data issued by the International Association of Gaming Regulators (IAGR). Problem gambling is being tackled by 88% of the regulatory bodies who participated in the group’s new ‘Gambling Regulation – Global Developments 2018-19’ survey. That represents an increase from 82%, when the data was last compiled in 2017, and places it ahead of consumer protection on 86% (90% in 2017) at the top of the list. Fewer authorities are dealing directly with gambling addiction compared to two years ago, with the number falling from 59% to 54%. Those dealing with match-fixing has risen considerably from 38% to 45%. Other key insights from the report, based on data provided by 44 jurisdictions, include that number-based games like lotto are the most common form of gambling, followed by casinos, then betting.

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National developments

Austria: Casinos Austria scandal leads to calls for end to monopoly

Austria’s leading gambling trade group has called for an end to Casinos Austria’s monopoly in light of the political scandal currently engulfing the operator. The Austrian Association for Betting and Gambling (OVWG) has spoken out in response to the developing investigation into the relationship between Casinos Austria, its chief finance officer Peter Sidlo (pictured), who is also a Freedom Party of Austria (FPO) district councillor in Vienna, and shareholder Novomatic. It has been claimed that Sidlo’s appointment was linked to licence awards in Vienna. Sidlo and Novomatic deny any wrongdoing. Last week, Economic and Corruption Prosecutor’s Office (WKStA) officers carried out further raids as part of their investigation following on from initial searches back in August.

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Cyprus: Bookmakers report 14% drop in GGR for Q2

Publishing its quarterly report for the second quarter of the year, the National Betting Authority of Cyprus has revealed a 14% drop in gross gaming revenue (GGR) for Class A (retail) and Class B (online) licensees. The report, which includes the publication of the financial results and quantitative data for the period April – June 2019, noted a tough trading period with retail-facing licensees taking the greatest hit. The combined comprehensive income for both Class A and Class B bookmakers showed a 4% increase between April-June 2019, reporting a combined figure of €176m compared to €169m in 2018. However, the retail licensees marked a decrease of 12% in comprehensive income compared to the same quarter of 2018. Online licensees reported an 18% jump in comprehensive income in comparison to Q2 2018, with figures recorded as €107m.

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Czech Republic: Minister pledges exclusion scheme launch in mid-2020

Czech finance minister Alena Schillerová hailed the effect of the country’s 2017 Gambling Act, and revealed that an exclusion register to block a range of individuals – both voluntarily and involuntarily – from gambling would launch next year. However, the country’s national drug policy coordinator has warned about the increase of online gambling in the Czech Republic, and suggested further controls may be needed. Speaking at the Czech national gambling conference that took place on 5 November in Prague, Schillerová said that the exclusion register would go launch in mid-2020. This will not only include players that self-exclude, but also those on welfare, those who are bankrupt, people who have received treatment for gambling addiction as well as players that voluntarily excluded. Anyone listed would be unable to gamble either online or in person.

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Finland: Gambling monopoly Veikkaus on new strategy: “We haven’t done enough to reduce addiction”

The state-owned gambling monopoly Veikkaus has promised to make broad changes to its operations following public criticism of its practices. The remedial measures it is now committing to include slashing marketing of its games of chance, trimming its network of slot machines and introducing a system of compulsory identification for most of its products. Veikkaus confirmed the changes following a series of stumbles, including a disastrous marketing campaign that caused the public to question the firm’s strategy.

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France: French state set for €1.89bn windfall from FDJ IPO

France’s Agence des participations de l’État (APE) has hailed the success of the initial public offering of gaming giant La Française des Jeux (FDJ), which could generate proceeds of €1.89bn (£1.62bn/$2.09bn) for the state. Up to 99,320,000 shares in the business are set to be sold, representing approximately 52% of FDJ’s total share capital. This comprised 40,172,148 shares which were sold to individuals and retailers making up FDJ’s sales network, representing 40.5% of all shares sold and generating proceeds of approximately €712m. Shares were sold to these entities priced at €19.50 each, including a 2% discount for retail investors.

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Germany: Licensing authority reiterates igaming warning

The body responsible for processing German online sports betting licence applications has once again stressed that operators must shut down any online casino or poker products if they are to operate legally in the market. The Regional Council of Darmstadt, representing the state of Hesse, added that any operator that continued to target German players without applying for a licence, or fail to adhere to the terms of the State Treaty on Gambling, would face severe consequences. In an open letter to the industry, the Council said it had been forced to speak out as a result of press statements calling for a delay in the licensing process.

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Germany: Forschungsstelle Glücksspiel: Legalise casino, tax offshore operators

The Gambling Research Centre (Forschungsstelle Glücksspiel) at the University of Hohenheim in Stuttgart has issued a series of recommendations to update German gambling laws, including imposing taxes on unlicensed operators, and legalising, but strictly controlling, online casino games. The Centre’s position paper, released ahead of a meeting of state lawmakers in December, also called for a new, federal regulatory authority to be established. “There is agreement that the enforcement against illegal providers on the Internet needs to be strengthened,” the Centre said. It pointed out that offshore operators were currently able to bypass any gross revenue or turnover taxes imposed on licensed operators, or only a sales tax on revenue.

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Greece: Gambling reforms pass into law

The Invest in Greece package of economic reforms, which includes an overhaul of the country’s gambling regulations, has passed into law after receiving approval from president Prokopis Pavlopoulos. The bill — passed by the country’s parliament last week — will see operators permitted to continue offering Random Number Generator games, such as slots, had looked set to be prohibited under a previous draft of the law. In addition, the bill includes a €3m licence fee for online betting, down from the previously suggested €5m. However, operators will have to pay a €2m fee, on top of the €3m, to offer other products such as casino games.

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Ireland: Horse Racing Ireland may sell all or part of Tote Ireland

Horse Racing Ireland (HRI) is examining the option of selling off all or part of Tote Ireland to private interests. The State licensed tote has been in operation for almost 90 years, with Tote Ireland a wholly-owned subsidiary of HRI, Irish racing’s semi-State ruling body, and all profits reinvested in the sport. However, tote turnover has been in freefall in recent years, struggling in a radically changed betting landscape dominated by online firms and exchanges. Last year total tote betting dropped by 33.3 per cent to €69.2 million. A lot of that was due to a decision by the Israeli government to ban betting into pools but on-course turnover also fell, by 7.7 per cent to just €10.7 million.

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Ireland: Lotto failed to cut off gamblers

The Regulator of the National Lottery threatened to withhold €100,000 from the operator last year because of a series of breaches of its licence, including allowing 19 “vulnerable” users to play after they had asked to be banned. Correspondence released following a decision by the Office of the Information Commissioner reveals that the regulator accused Premier Lotteries Ireland (PLI), the current operator, of “compromising the integrity and image of the National Lottery” because of the “seriousness of the breaches”.

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Italy: Government seeks to shrink its online gambling field by 2023

Tightening control of Italy’s online gambling marketplace, the 5Star-DP coalition government seeks to reduce the number of incumbents participating in the market by 2023. Attached to 5Star-DP’s first Budget Law decree, the coalition government seeks to reduce the total number of Italian online gambling licences to 50, from its current 85 concessions. The proposed revision has been communicated by Italy’s ADM customs and monopolies agency, the government department which maintains regulatory oversight of the gambling industry. The ADM has been tasked with leading a new 2023 licensing framework for online gambling incumbents, who will be charged €2 million for acquiring or renewing their digital concessions.

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Italy: ‘Zombie’ Bookmakers Staggering Towards Market Exit

Italy’s radical tightening of its gambling regulations, underscored by a controversial advertising ban, is slowly smothering many foreign online bookmakers with licences in Italy. According to official Ministry of Economy data, a number of well-known international brands have become little more than so-called “zombie bookmakers”, trading in near obscurity with little hope of improving their fortunes. Two of those, Betway and Marathonbet, appear to be direct victims of Luigi Di Maio, leader of the ruling Five Star Movement and ghost-writer of the “Dignity Decree” that ushered in the ad ban. After the end of its contract with football club SS Lazio last December, Marathonbet chose to switch to Spanish team Seville after a three-year deal with the Rome team was terminated after just six months by the sponsorship ban.

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Latvia: Parliament approves higher gambling taxes

Latvia’s parliament has approved proposals to raise certain land-based gaming taxes in the country, including the measures in the 2020 budget. Slot machines, roulettes, cards and dice games will all be impacted by the new laws, which were proposed in October and will come into effect from 1 January 2020. The flat fee levied on each slot machine in operation in Latvia will increase from €4,164 (£3,566/$4,602) to €5,172. In addition, operators of roulette and table games will have to pay an annual fee of €28,080 per gaming table they operate, up from the current fee of €23,400.

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Lithuania: Regulator to apply for new enforcement powers

The Lithuania Gambling Supervisory Authority is to lobby the Vilnius Regional Administrative Court for the power to block access and payments to unlicensed gambling sites, as it looks to step up efforts to tackle illegal gambling. Should the regulator be granted the powers, it will be able to issue binding orders to have internet service providers (ISPs) block unlicensed sites and force payment processors to cease all transactions with these businesses. This would bring the Authority in line with the Lithuanian Radio and Television Commission (LRTK), which can already order ISPs to prevent citizens from accessing illegal content under the Public Information and the Copyright and Related Rights Acts.

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Malta: MGA meets with the Italy’s Agenzia Dogane e Monopoli

Italy’s Director of Customs and Monopolies (‘Agenzia Dogane e Monopoli’), Benedetto Mineo, welcomed and met with the Head of the Maltese Delegation and the Chief Executive Officer of the Malta Gaming Authority, Heathcliff Farrugia, at the Agency’s Headquarters in Piazza Mastai, Rome, Italy. The meeting, which also featured the Heads of both Administrations’ Gambling, Anti-Fraud and International Relations departments, is part of a strategy to strengthen the collaboration between these two entities which are responsible for overseeing the supervision and regulation of legal gambling. In particular, the discussion focused mainly on existing legislation and regulations relating to both land-based and online gaming found in the two jurisdictions.

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Malta: MGA publishes Guiding Principles for the Application of Enforcement Measures

The Malta Gaming Authority is publishing a guidance note to shed light on how it exercises the discretion afforded to it by law in the selection of the nature and scope of enforcement measures it takes when a breach of law is committed.

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Netherlands: Government pushes back Dutch market launch date

Dutch gambling regulator the Kansspelautoriteit (KSA) has announced that the Netherlands’ regulated online gaming market is now likely to open from 1 July, 2021 – six months after previously stated. In a update to the Dutch parliament, Minister for Legal Protection Sander Dekker said that the legislation was now expected to be implemented on 1 January, 2021. From this point the KSA will be able to process licence applications, with the market to open six months later. Originally, the Remote Gaming Act was due to come into force from 1 July, 2020, according to the KSA. Before it can be implemented, secondary regulations – that were published in June – must be passed, and licensing conditions, for which information was made available earlier this month, must be finalised.

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Netherlands: Regulator releases new information on igaming licences

Dutch gambling regulator Kansspelautoriteit (KSA) has released more details about applying for new online gambling licences in the country, saying operators will be able to submit applications as soon as new legislation comes into force. The Netherlands is due to open a regulated online gambling market in January 2021 after the Dutch Senate in February voted to pass the Netherlands’ Remote Gambling Act. The Dutch government aims to bring secondary regulations governing the market into force from 1 July 2020, subject to final approval from the Ministry of Justice and Security. The KSA said while it cannot confirm when the Act will come into effect, it said it is keen to update potential applicants about process. This way, it said, operators will be aware of what they will be required to file and pay as soon as they are permitted to do so.

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Norway: Norsk Tipping may be granted Norwegian racing monopoly

The Norwegian government will consider transferring the country’s horse racing betting monopoly from national tote Norsk Rikstoto to national lottery Norsk Tipping when the former’s rights to organise wagering on racing expire at the end of 2021. The Ministry of Culture and the Ministry of Agriculture and Food will jointly carry out the assessment. Currently, Norsk Risktoto operates pari-mutuel horse racing betting in the country. However, the body’s concession to run wagering, which started in 2016, expires on 31 December, 2021. The government will consider handing control solely to Norsk Tipping, or having both bodies organise the sport jointly.

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Spain: Spanish betting operators reach consensus on advertising controls

Spanish online gambling trade association Jdigital has communicated that it has reached consensus amongst its partners, who will adhere to new advertising/marketing ‘control measures’ strengthening its code of conduct. Jdigital’s new provisions have been approved by the DGOJ’s joint committee on gambling standards, conduct and activities, a research body monitoring the behaviour and ethics of licensed gambling enterprises operating across Spain’s autonomous regions. Updating stakeholders, Jdigital details that it new ‘auto-control’ measures will be enforced across TV, radio and digital advertising verticals, within a period of two months. Securing industry-wide consensus, Jdigital sanctions that DGOJ licensed operators will stop all marketing activities which engage ‘active athletes’ to promote gambling services.

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Sweden: Sweden’s BOS blasts government’s approach to illegal gambling

Branschföreningen för Onlinespel (BOS), Sweden’s trade association for online gambling, has hit out at the national government’s approach to illegal gaming activities, saying imposing certain restrictions on licensed operators will allow illegal sites to increase their market share. This week, the Swedish Gaming Authority (Spelinspektionen) published figures showing that the share of licensed gambling in Sweden is between 85 and 87%, with the remaining share taken up by the black and grey market. BOS noted that this is below Spelinspektionen’s previous estimate, and it is also lower than the government’s channelisation target that at least 90% of the gambling in Sweden takes place on licensed platforms.

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Sweden/UK: British and Swedish regulators target best practice with MoU

The UK Gambling Commission and the Swedish Gambling Authority (Spelinspektionen) have announced details of a new Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), with the aim of enhancing cooperation between the two regulatory bodies. Under the agreement, which came into effect on 11 November, the Commission and Spelinspektionen will work closely to share best practice on areas such as regulatory policies and procedures. This will include promoting a common understanding of legitimate interests, engaging on matters of mutual policy and operational interest, as well as the provision of operation assistance. The two organisations will cooperate on general policy and supervisory issues, matters relevant to remote gambling operators, measures related to anti-money laundering and counter terrorist financing, as well as betting, gaming and other transactional data.

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UK: Gambling Commission hits back at MPs’ report

The Gambling Commission has hit back at a group of UK MPs who described the Commission as “not fit for purpose” and said its inaction has allowed operators to “prey” on vulnerable gamblers. The regulator responded after the Gambling Related Harm All-Party Parliamentary Group (GRH APPG) released its interim report on online gambling, in which it accused the regulator of failing to consider changes to rules on online stakes and prizes despite looking at other aspects of regulation. However, the Gambling Commission disputed that claim, pointing to a recent speech given by chief executive Neil McArthur (pictured) in which he outlined the body’s plans to consider online stakes as well as VIPs, ad tech, safer product design and a single customer view.

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UK: Customs publish UK Betting and Gaming Statistics

HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) has released its latest UK Betting and Gaming Statistics report, which revealed that the government’s gambling tax take in the six months ending September 30 hit £1.463b, up a modest 0.5% from the same period last year. While the total haul is virtually unchanged, the individual gaming segments’ contributions to that total have shifted dramatically since April 1, when the UK government boosted the Remote Gaming Duty (RGD, aka online casino revenue tax) from 15% to 21%. From April 1 to September 30, HMRC’s RGD haul totaled £332.4m, up from £263.9m in the same period last year, a 26% year-on-year increase. As a result of this change, online casino taxes accounted for 22.7% of HMRC’s total gambling haul, up from 18.1% in the same period last year.

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Market News

Online casino fails to offset Danish slot and sport declines in Q3
Poker and racing recoveries contribute to French Q3 growth
Flutter continues to feel the effect of FOBT ruling during Q3
Italy’s online casino growth slows dramatically in October
Spanish market still recovering from 2008 crash
Swedish igaming market beats Q3 revenue projections
Clampdown on fixed-odds betting terminals hits William Hill with gaming revenue down 39%

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