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All-in March

Overview of the top regulatory developments in March.

Australia

Following the Department of Broadband, Communications and Digital Economy’s release of its interim report on gambling on 29 May 2012, the department has now published its final report. The 32 recommendations made in the report mirror those raised in the interim report, focusing on such areas as harm minimisation and consumer protection, enforcement procedures and amendments to online gaming and wagering. Of note, a five year trial period for online tournament poker has been called to be implemented as has a prohibition on micro betting (i.e. betting on the next throw-in in a football match or ball-by-ball play in cricket).

When the Interactive Gambling Act was enacted in 2001, it created what is arguably the most sophisticated gambling regulatory regime in the world, which makes amendments of this nature even more significant. However, the liberalisation of poker tournaments recommended in the report is overshadowed somewhat by the prohibition on in-play betting. As in-play betting is currently exploited by a number of operators targeting Australia and is a major source of revenue, it goes without saying that the recommendation is undesirable for all stakeholders involved.

For more information on this story please read: Australia: Government Report on Interactive Gambling Released.

Germany

As the licensing process in Germany continues, it is understood that the German government still intends to issue only 20 licences for sports betting. A shortlist of operators were invited to interviews earlier in March, which is thought to be one of the final stages before licences are issued in May or June. Up to 100 operators have applied for one of the 20 German online sport betting licences and early indications suggest that some notable names have not made the shortlist. Several operators have already expressed their intention to challenge the legality of Germany’s online gambling regime under the market freedoms afforded by Community law if they are excluded from the market. The transparency of the licensing process and how the government determines who will and will not receive a licence will certainly be a contentious issue.

Greece

In a controversial U-turn, the Greek government has submitted a new draft law to the European Commission which effectively rescinds the 24 transitional licences granted to operators enabling them to keep transacting with Greek residents. The draft law proposes to revoke the rights of private operators to offer any form of betting and also restricts online gaming offered by private operators to games where the results are not determined by random number generator (i.e. poker tournaments) until 2020.

The draft law was lodged with the European Commission on 20 March, which is the beginning of the three month standstill period. It has been reported that the Greek government plan to enact the new law within one month after the standstill period expires.

This is a very radical move by the Greek government, especially in light of the ECJ decision in January which held that the national legislation, which continues to preserve exclusive rights for the monopoly, OPAP, was incompatible with EU law. It is fully expected that similar comments and criticisms are going to be voiced by the European Commission in terms of this new draft law and if the Commission intend to follow the objectives set out in its Action Plan of October 2012, infringement proceedings are going to gain momentum. Understandably, many operators are also aggravated by this reversal and challenges from stakeholders are likely to be forthcoming.

Japan

In an attempt to generate revenue, the Japanese government has confirmed that it proposes to submit a bill in order to revise the Soccer Betting Lottery Law. The proposed liberalisation will be limited though, and only bets on UK Premier League and World Cup matches will be permitted.

For a regime that has had a strong prohibitionist stance on gambling for many years, it will be interesting to see if this small opening of the market will lead to a greater proliferation of approved betting events in Japan, or even, if other Asia-Pacific countries will follow suit.

More information can be found at: Japan: Proposal to Revise Soccer Betting Lottery Law

Romania

Although a gambling licensing regime has been on the statute books for some time, licences for online gambling were not available due to the absence of a monitoring committee. However, the Romanian government has taken steps to establish a monitoring and reporting body, paving the way for full implementation of an online gambling regime. Once the legislation creating the monitoring committee is published (expected to be early this month) it is anticipated that online licences may become available shortly thereafter.

For more information please read: Romania: Proposed Changes to Gambling Legislation.

Spain

Publication of the 2013 Tax Audit Plan confirmed that the Spanish tax authorities are planning to target the online gambling industry and increase monitoring of both operators and players. The intended measures the Spanish tax authorities are planning to use include taxation controls on prizes and audit proceedings, which will obviously create a greater regulatory burden.

Further information can be found at: Spain: Increased monitoring by the tax authorities.

Ukraine

A draft law, “On the gambling business in Ukraine” (“Bill”) currently resides with the Ukrainian parliament. The Bill seeks to create an online gambling regime, however, its reach is limited to locally established casinos and hotels. After the Bill is considered by parliament it will then need to be scrutinised by the European Commission, who will most likely raise concerns over the requirement to be established in the Ukraine in contravention of the market freedoms under Community law.

For more on this development please read: Ukraine: Draft Regulations with Parliament.