Romania: Proposed changes to gambling legislation

After more than two years during which remote gambling, although regulated, could not be legally carried out in practice due to the lack of an authorized monitoring and reporting body, Romanian authorities seem to have finally taken the initiative to remedy this situation.

Since December 2010, the main pieces of legislation on gambling in Romania – Government Emergency Ordinance no. 77/2009 (“GEO 77/2009”) and its guidelines (“Guidelines”) – contain a framework covering remote gambling. However, obtaining an authorization for remote gambling and carrying it out afterwards are conditioned by the existence of a monitoring and reporting operator, which has not been established yet. This makes remote gambling impossible to be carried out legally in Romania.

Given the growing size of the remote (especially online) gambling market, the potential revenue for the State and the fact that, although unlicensed in Romania, many offshore gambling operators provide gambling services to Romanian customers anyway, via the Internet, the Romanian Government today passed an Emergency Ordinance (“Ordinance”), with the aim to allow gambling operators to legally offer remote gambling services.

The Ordinance was initiated by the Ministry of Public Finances and was published on its website for public consultation. The draft can be found here (available only in Romanian). According to the substantiation note of the Ordinance, consultations were also performed with several professional associations of gambling operators.

The Ordinance establishes a new sole authority in relation to gambling, the National Gambling Office (“Office”), which replaces the previous one (the Commission for Authorization of Gambling) and also takes over the duties monitoring and reporting operators should have fulfilled. While replacing the Commission with the Office will not have any significant practical consequences for gambling operators, the fact that the Office will handle monitoring and reporting in relation to remote gambling effectively means that gambling operators will be able obtain an authorization for and legally carry out remote gambling in Romania. However, the Ordinance does not repeal the requirement that gambling operators be organized as Romanian companies, potentially limiting its impact.

An interesting provision of the Ordinance states that legally issued decisions of the Office are binding not only for gambling operators themselves, but also for operators whose activity (even occasional) is connected to gambling and for operators which can or may offer relevant information. The Ordinance does not further elaborate on this, hence it remains to be seen what types of decisions will the Office issue.

Another change the Ordinance brings is to lift the ban on televised bingo existing since 2012.

The Ordinance also amends some points of GEO 77/2009, mainly to reflect the changes brought by the establishment of the Office and to insert provisions concerning televised bingo. However, we are not aware of any proposed amendments to the Guidelines, which should be amended as well. Most likely, this will be done at a later date.

Although the Ordinance was not on the Government’s agenda today, it was discussed and adopted, but will not enter into force until it is published. While it is possible that intensive lobbying could prevent publication, such action would be unprecedented and outside normal legislative order. The Office is scheduled to take over as the sole Romanian gambling authority from 15 April 2013.

Although these changes seem somewhat rushed, they will most likely have a positive impact on the gambling market, as they may allow gambling operators to legally provide remote gambling services to Romanian customers.

On the other hand, if and once the Office comes into existence, Romanian authorities will probably be more active in seeking legal measures against unauthorized remote gambling operators targeting Romanian customers.

For more information please contact Cosmina Simion at cosmina.simion@dlapiper.com