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Top 3 takeaways from DLA Piper gambling and tax event

Giulio CoraggioUpcoming licensing regimes, strict sanctions and privacy compliance are among the regulatory changes discussed during the DLA Piper gambling and tax event.

We ran on the 6th of February 2017 the second edition of the DLA Piper gambling and tax event with over 100 people and DLA Piper lawyers from Italy, Portugal, Germany, Czech Republic, Poland, Netherlands, Belgium, Spain and the UK. It was a very interesting event and here is a snapshot of what discussed during the gambling regulatory panel:

1. The Netherlands, Czech Republic and Italy on the “to-do-list

The online gaming licensing regime in The Netherlands has been waited for several years so far, but it seems that the final opening of the market is getting close. Regardless of the outcome of the elections, it is likely to happen over the course of the year.

Online licenses are available in the Czech Republic, but regulations defining technical requirements for gambling devices (including those used for online games) have not been issued yet. This means that licenses for the respective games are being issued with significant delays. Once these regulations are issued the period for obtaining the license will be 60 days from submitting the relevant application.

In Italy 120 online gaming licenses are ready to be issued by the end of the first quarter 2017 and applying entities should get ready to it. Also 15,000 betting shop/corner licenses should be issued over the course of the year. But the delay is due to the lack of agreement between the Government and local municipalities as to the time operation and the distance from sensitive locations.

Germany still seems unclear. According to a recent court decision, it is possible to offer online sportsbetting without a local license, just relying on a EU license, while the situation is still blurred with reference to online casino games.

Licenses are available in Portugal with no limitation in number and 4 operators already got it. The main issue pertains to the high taxation imposed on sportsbetting which is likely to be reviewed in the coming months.

No licenses are available in Spain and Belgium and the sole option to get into the market is to acquire the shareholding (or the business) of a current license holder. On the contrary, Poland is heading towards a more restrictive approach which however is likely to be challenged before the European Court of Justice for lack of compliance with the EU principles of freedom of services.

As to the UK, it seems like the gambling commission is adopting a quite stringent approach as showed by the recent issued penalties. A new approach towards regulations should be adopted ensuring transparency and a dialogue with the regulator.

2. Online gambling .COM operation is getting riskier

All the countries reviewed during the event are adopting a strict approach against the offering of online games in their jurisdiction without a local license. Criminal prosecution for illegal offering of games is imposed in Poland, Portugal, Belgium, Czech Republic, Italy and Germany.

Gambling regulators are becoming quite aggressive in going after unlicensed operators. This is for instance the case of the Czech Republic where the first administrative proceeding against an operator started in January 2017 and the regulator is mapping unlicensed operators.

Also, the offering of games in the country without a local license might preclude the subsequent entitlement to apply for a local license in Spain and Germany.

The upcoming international sharing liquidity and the potential harmonisation of technical standards might help to the setting up of European licensing regimes.

3. The European privacy regulation will require stricter approach on data protection compliance

I already discussed about the impact of the upcoming EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) on the business of gaming operators and suppliers. The time necessary to become compliant is of at least a year considering the broad scope of the regulation.

Additionally, the fact that players will be able to bring claims before the data protection authorities of their country of residence which will be able to issue fines up to 4% of the global turnover puts the position of operators and suppliers more at risk.

Customisations and profiling will not be prevented by the GDPR, but it is true that it will require additional formalities and controls to comply with.

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@GiulioCoraggio