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All-In July

Top gambling regulatory developments in July.

France

Since January 2013, ARJEL, the French Regulator, has shown an interest in both free online lotteries and social games.  On 15 May 2013 French Members of Parliament introduced a bill aiming to reinforce online lottery legislation and help protect consumers. 

The bill seeks to amend several provisions of the French Consumer Code. As drafted, the amendments would result in a significant change and expand the definition of prohibited lotteries to capture games that are, even in part, based on chance.

It is important to note however, that the bill has only been submitted for examination by the Economic Affairs Commission (“Commission”) and a number of amendments and modifications could be made before it is passed into law. So far, the bill has only been registered with the Commission and any lobbying or consultation period has not yet commenced.  Therefore, at this time it is difficult to assess whether the bill will be adopted by the Commission in its current form or whether changes will be made. 

Depending on how the draft bill is interpreted, and with such a broad definition of games of chance, it is possible that social gaming could fall under France’s gambling regulations. Although the timeline and the scope of the final amendments are unclear, France could be the first to address the convergence of social gaming and gambling through regulation. (Belgium did submit draft legislation in November 2012 which limited spend on social gaming to €100 per month but the draft is still being considered.)

Greece

On 30 July the Hellenic Gaming Commission published a blacklist of 402 websites operating without a licence in Greece.  Greek ISPs, local banks and law enforcement agencies are understood to have been sent a copy of the blacklist and are required to block any websites or transactions from operators on that list.

The initial blacklist was expected in April 2013 but in a controversial U-turn by the Greek Government in March 2013, essentially rescinding the 24 transitional licences granted to operators which enabled them to keep transacting with Greek residents and creating a monopoly over online gambling until 2020, the blacklist was not published.  However, given a number of challenges to the proposed laws are expected from disgruntled operators and the standstill period has been extended by the European Commission until 23 September, it appears the Greek Government are trying to take steps to ensure as many offshore operators exit the Greek market as possible. 

It will be interesting to see the validity of the blacklist given the incompatibility of the Greek gambling regime with European Laws.

Ireland

The General Scheme of the Gambling Control Bill 2013 (“Bill”) was approved by the Irish Government on 16 July, introducing legislation that seeks to regulate online gambling for the first time.  The bill will replace the very outdated Betting Act 1931 and the Gaming and Lotteries Act 1956.

When the Bill is introduced it will mean that any company offering gambling services to Irish residents, whether based in Ireland or elsewhere, will require a licence from the proposed self-funding regulator, the Department of Justice and Equality. Providing there are no significant hurdles, it is anticipated that the legislation will be enacted before the next election in late 2015 or early 2016.

Form a UK perspective, the prohibition of fixed-odds betting terminals is perhaps the most controversial provision contained in the Bill given their prominence in the UK retail bookmaking environment. However, it is understood that Irish bookmakers are more concerned about the corresponding tax regime which is expected to be announced in the Budget later this year.

For further information please read: Ireland: Gambling Control Bill 2013 approved

Italy

Since the online licencing regime in Italy began, it has restricted the range of sports and events that operators are allowed to offer.  In operational terms, this meant that many operators had to specifically tailor their Italian facing websites to suit the needs of the more restrictive regulations.  However, as of the 31 July, AAMS, the Italian gambling regulator, published a revised schedule of events permitting operators to offer bets on a wider range of sporting events.

It is not that simple however.  All new bets offered must first be approved by AAMS and with the new football season drawing nearer, it remains to be seen if operators will be able to get their applications through the stringent approval process in time, or indeed, if AAMS will be able to deal with the number of applications.

For further information please read: Italy: Customised Sport Bet Rules Approved

Lithuania

This jurisdiction has for a long time remained a legal grey area, with its laws silent on whether or not gambling activities can be offered online. Draft laws have been submitted parliament but never enacted. The current draft is arguably inconsistent with European laws, requiring licence holders to establish a Lithuanian company as well as other conditions (i.e. must operate in at least one casino, five horse race betting locations, ten slot machine parlours or 20 betting parlours). Despite this, the Lithuanian Gambling Gaming Control Commission has recently announced its intention to require ISPs to block unlicenced operators by submitting a draft proposal.

As with other European jurisdictions such a Greece, the validity of this blacklist is uncertain given the ambiguity of Lithuanian law.  It remains to be seen if ISP blocking will commence, but operators are likely to challenge the regime to the extent that any inconsistency in the law exists.

Netherlands

Following the unveiling of the Dutch Remote Gambling Act in May 2013, the Dutch Government has continued with its reform and published supplementary regulations on the promotion, advertising and addiction of games of chance (“Regulations”).  Currently, the Regulations will only apply to a small number of Dutch licence holders but will extend to all operators that obtain a Dutch licence when the online licensing regime is implemented.

The Regulations do not throw up any surprises in terms of advertising restrictions that are in place in other regulated jurisdictions. However, having a clear understanding of the rules now will certainly not hinder operators once the licencing regime is in place.

For more information please read: Netherlands: Supplementary regulations enacted as the Dutch regime gains momentum.

New Jersey

As online gambling ramps up in New Jersey’s Atlantic City, 37 applications were received by the Division of Gaming Enforcement by suppliers seeking to support the land-based casinos.

The enactment of the regulations is flexible, as the statute does not prescribe a hard date by which the regulations must be finalised, but it is common practice for the division to post final regulations 30 to 60 days after receipt of all comments.  It is apparently the Governor’s intention to go live in Autumn, so the Division will most likely post final regulations no later than the end of August.

As a result of the estimated revenues that can be generated in the U.S., it is surprising that there were not more than 37 applications. That said, the licensing process is on-going and entities are not precluded simply because they missed the 29 July deadline. It can be expected that more applications will follow in the short term as European operators and suppliers seek to forge relationships in the U.S. and benefit from its revenue stream.