Monthly Newsletter – February 2019

Europe’s monthly online gambling news

Demise Of EU Expert Group Decried

A member of European Parliament (MEP) has promised to inquire into the fate of the European Union’s Expert Group on Gambling Services after former regulators complained about its demise. Francesco Rodano, the former head of Italy’s gambling regulator, grumbled about the recent expiration of the expert group, a cross-border organisation at which EU regulators from countries including Malta, the Netherlands and Italy met to discuss common issues. “We learned a lot, we learned from each other, and now it’s killed,” said Rodano, currently a Playtech executive. In response, Romanian MEP Cristian-Silviu Busoi has promised to lodge a written question before the European Parliament asking about why the group was disbanded. Busoi organised a meeting last week in Brussels on Regulatory Frameworks of Gambling in the Eastern EU, featuring speakers from Romania, Poland and the Czech Republic. Source: Gambling Compliance.

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EU policy rules shouldn’t gamble with protecting players online

Digitalisation is changing how consumers use products — and gambling is no different. With the increased accessibility of online gambling comes a greater responsibility to protect our players and ensure they play in a safe and responsible way. This requires two things: stronger social responsibility from companies and gambling regulation which reflects the digital world we live in. But in Europe, gambling regulation is struggling to keep pace with technological developments – and this puts the player at risk. Because the level of player protection varies depending on where the player lives in the EU. Source: EGBA.

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European Commission publishes study on channelling and the enforcement of online gambling rules

The European Commission published on 29 January a study on the “Evaluation of regulatory tools for enforcing online gambling rules and channelling demand towards controlled offers”. The study was carried out by the Queen Mary University of London and focused on the challenges faced by regulators in enforcing effectively online gambling services in the EU. The study focused on a number of different areas: website blocking; payment blocking; regulation of advertising; sanctions; gambling software; evaluation of regulatory effectiveness. In its conclusions, the study advised Member States to put in place policies and processes to continuously evaluate the effectiveness of enforcement. Source: European Commission.

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EU development of Artificial Intelligence could help keep online gambling safe and fair

The European Gaming and Betting Association (EGBA), representing Europe’s leading online gambling companies, welcomes today’s conclusions of the Competitiveness Council of the European Union on Artificial Intelligence (AI). EGBA believes that AI, if exploited effectively, could have massive benefits for the online gambling sector in strengthening existing measures for identity verification, player protection and fraud prevention. Source: EGBA.

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ESSA reports 267 suspicious betting alerts in 2018

International betting integrity body ESSA (Sports Betting Integrity) reported 83 cases of suspicious betting to the relevant authorities during the fourth quarter of 2018, bringing the annual total to 267 cases. Tennis (178) and football (52) constituted 86% of all alerts during the year. Geographically, Europe maintained its position as the primary location of sporting events on which alerts have been generated, totalling 148 (55%) in 2018, with Asia continuing to fill second spot with 48 alerts (18%). Khalid Ali, ESSA Secretary General, stated that: “ESSA’s alerts remain an important barometer for gauging betting related corruption globally. Outside of tennis and football, we are beginning to see new threats emerging such as the increased number of alerts on eSports.” He added: “Given the multi-jurisdictional nature of match-fixing, regulators around the world are now beginning to make it a requirement for operators to be part of an international monitoring system, which we fully support.” Source: ESSA.

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EGBA reacts to Norway’s new payment blockings

The Norwegian Gaming Authority has banned payment transactions with six gambling companies, which it says are operating “illegally” within its territory, the Times of Malta reports. The regulator has ordered banks to block payments to and from accounts identified as being used for processing gambling transactions. The European Gaming and Betting Association (EGBA) urges the Norwegian government to undertake a more fundamental rethink of how the country regulates online gambling – because the current regime is not sustainable and the latest attempt to block off a Norwegian corner on the internet is evidence of it. Source: EGBA.

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EGBA becomes supporter of Safer Internet Day

This month the EGBA became an official supporter of the Safer Internet Day (SID) campaign, which is organised on behalf of the European Commission in February of each year to promote safer and more responsible use of online technology and mobile phones, especially among children and young people across the world. The annual activity is organised by Better Internet for Kids, an NGO that works on behalf of the European Commission on a broad range of activities for online safety and digital literacy for children and young people. Source: EGBA.

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National developments

France: French Regulator Backs Tax Reform To Support ‘Fragile’ Online Market

French gambling regulator ARJEL has hailed the progress of the country’s online gambling sector, but warned that success is “fragile” unless proposed reforms to convert the sports-betting tax base to gross gaming revenue (GGR) are approved. ARJEL released its review of authorised online gambling on Wednesday, revealing a second consecutive year of growth in all of the country’s online offerings, including poker, horseracing and sports betting. However, the figures were overshadowed by the online market’s perceived “fragility”, caused by an influx of bettors during the FIFA World Cup and an underperforming poker player liquidity convention, said ARJEL. “The project currently under discussion in the framework of the PACTE (Pact Act) for a base on the GGR for sports betting would be a particularly important factor in consolidating the sector by aligning it with its European partners,” the regulator stated. Online operators currently pay a tax based on wagers. A switch to GGR would be of particular benefit to sports-betting firms in insulating them against a run of poor results. Gambling Compliance ($).

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Ireland: Delays over gambling law ‘put vulnerable players at risk’

The government’s inaction on gambling regulation is putting people at risk, the leading trade association in Europe has said. Maarten Haijer, secretary-general of the European Gaming and Betting Association, said that the long delay in implementing the Gambling Control Bill 2013 was impeding efforts to protect problem gamblers. The association represents Bet365, Ladbrokes and others but not the Irish operators Paddy Power-Betfair or Boylesports. “The absence of a modern gambling law in Ireland puts players at risk and jeopardises the task of ensuring that all gamblers can play in a safe and regulated online environment,” Mr Haijer said. Source: The Times.

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Italy: Italy issues 70 new igaming licences

Italian gaming regulator Agenzia delle Dogane e dei Monopoli (ADM) has finally completed the process to award a tranche of new online gaming licences to operators, with 70 companies approved following a number of delays to the process. Of the total number, 66 have been granted full permission to operate in the market. The final four, Scommettendo, Spati, Sogno di Tolosa and Universal Solutions, have been awarded licences with additional – unspecified conditions – attached. The other 66 licensees includes a number of high profile international operators including The Stars Group, William Hill, Paddy Power Betfair, GVC and bet365, local land-based and online businesses, and new Scandinavian entrants such as Casumo and Videoslots. Each licence required operators to pay a fee of €200,000 (£175,535/$226,379), with companies also required to have an existing Italian or European Union gaming licence, with turnover of at least €1.5m in the past two years. All licences are valid until December 31, 2022. Source: iGaming Business.

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Malta: Tougher Malta MGA suspends trio of licencees

Acting as the principal regulatory body responsible for monitoring Malta igaming industry incumbents’ actions both home and abroad, the ‘Malta Gaming Authority -MGA’ has announced a trio of licensee suspensions. Issuing a series of industry updates, the MGA confirms that it has moved to suspend the licences of German/Turkish online bookmaker Betixx Limited, alongside Silema–based industry games developer Morpheus Games (MT). As of 12 February, the MGA has instructed bookmaker Betixx an MGA licensee since 2013, to cease all operations related to registering new players and accepting deposits. Furthermore, the MGA demands Betixx associated websites, to remove content and promotions related to the bookmaker – “Due to the suspension of the licence, Betixx Limited is therefore not authorised to continue conducting gaming by means of distance communications under an Authority licence”. Source: SBC News.

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Netherlands: EGBA welcomes Dutch online gambling approval; important step to establish functioning market

Today the Dutch Senate approved an online gambling law for the Netherlands, bringing the Netherlands into line with 25 other EU countries who already regulate the activity. The European Gaming and Betting Association (EGBA), representing Europe’s leading online gambling companies, welcomes the adoption of the new law as an important step to establish a functioning and well-regulated online gambling market which protects online players. Online gambling is popular in the Netherlands, with 1.8 million Dutch citizens[1] – over 10% of the country’s total population – participating in some form of online gambling last year. But the Netherlands is one of three EU countries (IRE, NL, SLO) that currently do not have any regulation for online gambling. Source: EGBA.

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Slovakia: Slovakia’s parliament overrides President’s gambling law veto

Slovakia’s online gambling liberalization is back on schedule after legislators overrode President Andrej Kiska pre-Christmas veto. On Tuesday, the Slovak National Council voted to override the December 21 decision by President Kiska (pictured) to veto the country’s new Gambling Act, which legislators had originally approved on December 4. The legislation deals with a wide variety of gambling issues, but the biggest change is ending the online gambling monopoly of the state-owned national lottery operator Tipos. For the first time, Slovakia will allow private domestic firms as well as online operators based in other European Union markets to apply for licenses. Source: Calvin Ayre.

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Sweden: Government ready to go hard on gambling ads

Sweden’s Minister Public Administration Ardalan Shekarabi has summoned representatives of the gambling industry to parliament to address gambling advertisements in the country, Swedish Television (SVT) reported on Tuesday. “The Swedish people are tired of the extremely aggressive marketing, the unrestrained advertising,” the minister told SVT. “If the industry is unable to take responsibility and observe moderation in advertising for gambling, then I will not hesitate to progress with harsher, mandatory measures.” On Jan. 1, 2019, Sweden introduced a new gambling act to re-regulate the industry. The act requires, among other things, that all gambling companies operating in Sweden be licensed, and that they must ensure gambling advertisements are restrained. The act also prohibits gambling companies from direct marketing to individuals who have barred themselves from gambling. Over 20,000 people in Sweden have self-selected to be barred from access to online sites, but the minister noted that these rules were not being complied with across the board. Souce: Xinhua.

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United Kingdom: Report reveals children’s exposure to TV ads for gambling decreased by 37.3%

The Advertising Standards Authority has published a new report that shows that, in recent years, children’s exposure to TV ads for alcohol, gambling and food and soft drink products high in fat, salt or sugar (HFSS products) is declining. Data from 2017, the latest year covered by the report, shows that children, on average, see 161.2 TV ads per week, of which: One is for an alcohol product; 2.8 are for gambling products; and 9.6 are for HFSS products* As an average, it is acknowledged that some children see more ads per week, and some see fewer. Children’s exposure to all TV ads peaked in 2013 (229.3 ads per week) and declined, year-on-year, to 161.2 ads per week in 2017; a reduction of 29.7%. Over the same period, children’s exposure to: TV ads for alcohol decreased by 62.5%; TV ads for gambling decreased by 37.3%; TV ads for food and soft drink decreased by 45.5. Source: Advertising Standards Authority.

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United Kingdom: New rules to make online gambling in Britain fairer and safer

The Gambling Commission has announced new rules which online operators must follow to make gambling safer and fairer. The new rules, which follow an open consultation, will ensure operators verify customers’ age and identity details faster which will benefit consumers. Source: Gambling Commission.

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United Kingdom: New standards protecting children from irresponsible gambling ads

The Advertising Standards Authority has published new standards to protect children and young people from irresponsible gambling ads. This follows a review of the evidence on advertising’s impact on under-18s and rulings by the Advertising Standards Authority. The last review was carried out in 2014. The evidence suggests that exposure to gambling ads that comply with the UK’s Advertising Codes is, of itself, unlikely to harm under-18s. Targeted restrictions are still required, however, to address the potential risks associated with irresponsible advertising. While the advertising rules don’t need to change, we have introduced new standards to strengthen how they apply in practice. Source: Advertising Standards Authority.

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