Monthly Newsletter – September 2019

Europe’s monthly online gambling news

EGBA: Five reasons why more EU policy would benefit online gamblers

As the new EU term begins, much attention has already been given to the importance of making Europe’s digital economy work better for European consumers. Ensuring the EU single market embraces the digital reality and is less impeded by national barriers is a major challenge, but one that EU policymakers must grapple with to prevent Europe’s economy being left behind by global digital transformation. And while much progress has already been made in terms of the EU digital single market rules, it is vital to ensure these rules harmoniously intersect to safeguard the rights of consumers and promote the interests of online businesses. Because today the online economy goes far beyond music streaming, or buying a book online, and includes almost anything you could imagine — including placing a bet on the outcome of your favorite football team’s next match. EU regulation needs to keep up. Here are five reasons why.

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European Parliament: Study shows inclusion of online gambling in EU digital single market benefits consumers

A new study by the European Parliament has found that deepening EU digital single market (DSM) rules to include online gambling could deliver nearly €6 billion in savings for EU consumers and businesses per year and fill existing gaps in Europe’s consumer protection framework. The European Gaming and Betting Association (EGBA) welcomes the findings and calls on EU policy makers to introduce a single set of rules for online gambling. The study, presented to the Parliament’s Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee (IMCO) during its session on 2-3 September, evaluated the benefits of existing DSM measures and outlined the potential economic benefits for citizens and businesses by further deepening DSM policies.

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European Parliament: Resolution on implementation of anti-money laundering rules

Last week, Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) passed a resolution calling for EU anti-money laundering (AML) rules to be better coordinated and implemented in a timely manner. The resolution was adopted with 530 votes to 14 and 104 abstentions. The date of transposition of the Fourth Anti-Money Laundering Directive was June 2017, and the Fifth Anti-Money Laundering Directive is to be implemented by January 2020. As the deadline approaches, MEPs urge Member States to implement the already agreed AML rules into national law, including accelerating preparations on meeting deadlines for the beneficial ownership registers for corporate and other legal entities, and for trusts and similar legal arrangements by 10 January 2020 and 10 March 2020 respectively.

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National developments

Belgium: Regulator launches industry consultation on advertising restrictions

The Belgian Gaming Commission has launched a consultation on the sweeping advertising restrictions that came into effect from 1 June this year, through which it is looking to understand the challenges operators face in complying with the new controls. These controls were introduced to ramp up player protection standards in the country, after the country’s government found online gambling advertising to have become “ubiquitous”, with more than 1m players registering with licensed operators.

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Denmark: Gambling ad agreement thwarted by Competition Authority

The Danish Competition Authority blocked a Danish trade group’s plans to forge an agreement with television companies to reduce the number of gambling commercials, the trade group’s chief executive said. The Danish Online Gambling Association has been forced to abandon a planned media agreement to reduce the volume of gambling commercials due to competition concerns, said its CEO, Morten Ronde. The agreement would have been part of its current voluntary code to protect children and vulnerable people, which complements executive orders from the Danish tax ministry. Part of the plan is to create a body to review advertising and publish criticism, funding of which is still being discussed, Ronde said.

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Finland: Gambling monopoly losing public support – survey

More Finns oppose Veikkaus’s gambling monopoly than support it and opinions are more negative towards Veikkaus than they were previously, according to a poll conducted by Bilendi Oy and commissioned by affiliate Kasino Curt. The survey found that 41% of the population want to break Veikkaus’s gambling monopoly in the country, while only 28% want to keep it together. Some 17% strongly supported ending the monopoly and 11% were strongly opposed to ending it. In March, support for breaking the monopoly was only marginal, with 31% wholly or partly agreeing to end Veikkaus’s monopoly and 27% wanting to keep it in place.

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Finland: Will Finland adopt Swedish online gambling model?

It’s often said that close neighbours mimic each other, and this is certainly the case for Sweden and Finland. The two countries may be fierce rivals on the hockey rink or Eurovision stage, but they do have a similar approach to governance. After all, both Finland and Sweden have economies based on the Nordic Model, mixing capitalism with social welfare. One area in which the two countries have diverged is online gambling. Until recently, Finland and Sweden were in the same boat, with both banning private gambling operators from offering their services to locals. But all that changed on January 1, 2019, when Sweden ended its long-running state gambling monopoly and opened up the market to private, regulated operators.

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France: French casinos demand ban on FDJ offering casino games

A trio of associations representing French land-based casino operators and their staff have called on the country’s government to confirm that La Française des Jeux (FDJ) will remain prohibited from offering casino games once privatised. In an open letter to the government, Casinos de France, Syndicat des Casinos Modernes de France and the Association des Casinos Indépendants Français (ACIF) asked for the government to clarify exactly what forms of gambling a privatised FDJ may offer.

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Germany: No changes to German State Treaty following European Commission 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. 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: Hesse reiterates breakaway threat over gambling law overhaul

Hesse has repeated its threat to break away from Germany’s other 15 federal states and develop its own regulatory framework for gambling should lawmakers fail to overhaul the country’s laws by 2021. The state’s Minister for the Interior Peter Beuth warned that should the state’s calls for an end to the prohibition on in-play wagering and online casino go unheeded, it would cease working toward a federal model. The Regional Council of Darmstadt is preparing to begin processing federal sports betting licence applications from January 2020. Beuth said this was being done to break the legal impasse and channel players away from illegal offerings.

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Hungary: More problem gamblers opt to ban themselves fsince Implementation of Self-Exclusion Option

An increasing number of Hungarian people are taking advantage of the opportunity to suspend themselves from gambling, according to the local news hub Magyar Hírlap. As reported by the media, 150 people have filed requests in the Gaming Supervisory Authority (GSA) in the first six months of 2019, asking to be banned from gambling for five years. Since January 1st, 2016, Hungarian people who are struggling to restrain themselves from gambling have been able to take active measures. A change in the country’s legislation has provided them with the chance to file self-restraint statements at the Gambling Supervisory Authority to ban themselves from gambling for a certain period of time.

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Netherlands: Regulator Clarifies Reporting Procedures Amid Underage Controversy

The Dutch Gambling Authority (KSA) has clarified the obligation of its licensees to report internal failures and attempted to address reportedly high levels of underage gambling in the country. Casinos, bookmakers and lotteries are all obliged to report “incidents”, which are defined as “all situations that could damage the consumer’s confidence”, to the KSA as part of their licence obligations, the regulator said on Wednesday. Publishing the wrong results, lottery draw technical failures, production errors in multiple gaming tables, the participation of minors in a game of chance and disruptions in the process related to access control, draws or payments are all examples given by the KSA of incidents that must be reported.

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Netherlands: Industry queries Dutch betting restrictions

The consultation on the Netherlands’ secondary regulations for online gaming has raised concerns about proposed restrictions on betting on certain sports and in-play wagering, with contributors warning these may push players towards unlicensed operators. The secondary regulations, published for comment in July, set out restrictions on certain bet types, such as win/loss markets for individual games and sets in tennis, and markets on fouls, throw-ins, corners and cards in football. Rory Raine, international development officer for bet365, warned that this could have “a detrimental effect on the attractiveness of the licensed offering” to the extent that customers may migrate to unlicensed sites offering such bet types.

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Norway: Norwegian regulator warns newspapers over odds coverage

Norway’s gambling regulator Lotteri-og stiftelsestilsynet (Lottstift) has warned newspapers that they are effectively carrying illegal gambling advertising if they include odds offered by unlicensed operators in articles. Lottstift said the issue had been highlighted by coverage of Norway’s municipal elections, noting that 49 newspapers had recently included coverage of odds offered on whether citizens would vote for female majors in stories. As these operators do not hold a licence in Norway, Lottstift said, they are also not permitted to advertise their services in the national media. The regulator has therefore contacted newspapers across the country to inform them of the regulations so that they can take more effective action to block such operators from advertising.

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Poland: Gambling market still dominated by illegal operators

An audit of the Polish gambling market has revealed that while the regulated gambling industry has grown rapidly following amendments to the country’s Gambling Act in 2017, it is still dwarfed by the illegal market. The Polish Supreme Audit Office (NIK) concluded that while oversight had been stepped up significantly, additional powers should be granted to the Ministry of Finance to crack down on increasingly sophisicated tactics being used to circumvent enforcement action in the market. The country’s online betting market, comprising both legal and unlicensed activity, grew to an estimated PLN7.9bn (£1.63bn/€1.82bn/$2.02bn) for 2018, up from PLN5.0bn in 2015, according to the NIK. Over this period, amounts wagered via legal operators soared more than 600% to PLN3.88bn by 2018.

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Spain: Regulator urges voluntary ad restrictions to combat crisis

The Spanish gambling regulator (DGOJ) has said the gambling industry must develop voluntary advertising restrictions to combat a crisis driven by growing public concerns and political uncertainty. Guillermo Sanchez, deputy director of gambling regulation at the DGOJ, does not doubt that the gambling industry in Spain will continue to grow but is concerned that it is experiencing its greatest ever “reputation crisis”. “A lot can be done. Regulation is coming which will absolutely be more restrictive for gambling advertising. We will happily enforce these rules but urge the industry to tackle advertising issues before any regulation is introduced,” said Sanchez.

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Sweden: Channelisation concerns remain following Swedish meeting

Licensed operators in Sweden remain concerned about the prevalence of unlicensed sites in the market following a meeting with regulator Spelinspektionen on Tuesday (17 September). Operators in attendance said that while the meeting was appreciated and beneficial on the whole, the issue of channelisation — ensuring players play with licensed operators rather than unlicensed — was insufficiently addressed. The meeting, which discussed issues such as anti money-laundering controls, responsible gambling, rules regarding underage betting and channelization, was intended to solve the tense atmosphere between operators and Swedish authorities, who have butted heads numerous times since the regulated market opened on 1 January.

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Sweden: Regulator issues warning to payment processors

The Swedish Gaming Authority (Spelinspektionen) has written to payment service providers warning them not to do business with unlicensed gambling operators targeting the country’s regulated igaming market. The regulator said that having implemented the Gaming Act, which opened up the market to private online operators for the first time in January this year, it aimed to enhance player protection controls by challening users towards legal, controlled forms of gambling. By working with companies that had not secured a Swedish licence, it said, payment processors were undermining these efforts as well as violating the Gaming Act.

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Switzerland: First blacklist of foreign gambling websites published

The Swiss Lottery and Betting Board has published its first blacklist of foreign gambling websites following a change to the law on online gambling. Over 60 foreign websitesexternal link have been blocked to Swiss gamblers. Last June, 73% of voters approved the overhaul of the country’s gambling law despite claims by opponents of government censorship. The law came into effect in January but blocking of foreign gambling websites only started in August.

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UK: Gibraltar gambling industry has border concerns over Brexit

The Gibraltar gambling industry has been planning for Brexit on the basis of the worst case scenario but concerns remain about the border with Spain in the event of no deal. Some of the biggest names in the sector are based in Gibraltar and employ more than 3,000 people in the territory, of whom 60 per cent are ‘frontier workers’, employees of any nationality who live in Spain and travel to work daily in Gibraltar. With no deal looking increasingly likely, there are fears those workers will be subject to long delays in their daily commute after October 31. Andrew Lyman, executive director of the Gibraltar government’s gambling division, said: “Plainly there is now more focus and some angst around ‘no-deal’ planning and what that means at an individual level. Most operators have already planned on a worst-case scenario basis.”

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UK: Improvements needed before GamStop becomes mandatory

The Gambling Commission believes further improvements to the online self-exclusion system GamStop are needed before it becomes mandatory for all licensees to integrate with the solution. While the majority of UK licensees have partnered the system, the Commission said that more work must be done for signing up to GamStop to be a key licence condition. ‘’We welcome the establishment of GamStop and the ongoing steps they have been taking to continually develop and improve the scheme,” the Commission said of the solution. “We are pleased to see that a large number of people are already getting protection through signing up and we hear directly from people about the benefits it has provided.”

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