Every month Euroslot updates you on the latest news affecting gaming policy and regulation around the world
The new Bulgarian law on gaming, permitting online gambling, came into effect on 1 July.
The government of Cyprus has banned most forms of online gaming, including poker and casino table games, saying its purpose is to crack down on illegal operations. Only sports betting with bookmakers (but not sports betting on exchanges) and lotteries will be legal.
Operators of online sportsbooks will now be required to pay a ten percent tax on net revenues, and a further three percent of gross revenues to sporting bodies and problem gambling charities.
The ban has been widely criticised, and there have been threats of a challenge at European level.
Some see it as a way to give OPAP, Greece’s partially state-owned lottery and sports betting firm, an effective monopoly in Cyprus, where it is already permitted to provide land-based gambling tax-free. It has been alleged that OPAP influenced members of the Cypriot parliament to pass the new law.
Other land-based gambling was already illegal but some operators had exploited a loophole: the law did not specifically forbid running land-based venues that offered access to Internet gaming.
European commissioner for the internal market and services Michel Barnier has announced a number of gambling-related initiatives including the relaunch of investigations into the compliance of member states’ laws with EU rules.
Commissioner Barnier has given MEPs, some national authorities and stakeholders an outline of the upcoming commission’s communication on online gambling in the internal market, which will include an action plan. He advocated EU action in the field of online gambling, given the cross-border and even global nature of that activity and the difficulty for member states of responding alone to the challenges that it poses.
The communication will mainly seek to tackle consumer protection (including the prevention of under-age and problem gambling), money laundering and the fight against match fixing. In order to attain those objectives, the commission will encourage administrative co-operation between national authorities, in particular with a view to agreeing minimum common standards of consumer protection; will promote the development of an attractive offer in those jurisdictions that decide to open their market; and will ensure respect of EU law.
Barnier indicated that he would instruct his services to “contact all member states concerned by ongoing cases or complaints in order to remind them of the applicable rules and suggest that any problematic situations are rectified in line with current case law. If blatant infringements persist, I will not hesitate to propose to my colleagues that the appropriate proceedings be taken or relaunched.”
The commission has not yet proceeded with any of the complaints lodged by the online gambling industry against member states’ gambling laws.
Said Clive Hawkswood, chief executive of the Remote Gambling Association: “We can only welcome any action on infringements, considering that many member states seem to have assumed that EU law will never be enforced against them. However, we do not know yet whether effective action will be taken. We very much hope that commissioner Barnier’s announcement will lead to some meaningful results before the end of his term.”
Manila may ban all forms of gambling, with the second reading of an ordinance to that effect now passed by the city council.
In its annual report, the Gambling Commission says it managed to reduce visits to operators by nearly 20 percent last year by “increasing focus on higher-impact operators and issues”.
Other achievements it highlights include “taking action to stop the trend to site category B2 machines (FOBTs) in premises which were not genuine bookmakers, with the majority of those approached closing down or adapting their offering to become compliant”, “stopping major newspaper chains promoting illegal lotteries”, and “actively policing the boundary between SWP machines and gaming machines”.
It has also reduced the regulatory burden on operators, it says, by removing the requirement to obtain prior approval from the commission for all new casino games or game variants; discontinuing the requirement for land-based casinos to hold a casino gaming reserve; modifying Category C gaming machine technical standards to allow for a variable speed of play and for game links to be offered on a 100 percent basis; and improving the regulatory returns process, particularly the online system.
Slightly reduced costs “enabled us to cut licence fees for over 1700 operators this year, and not increase them for over 2000 operators”, the regulatory body added.
The Gambling Commission and Hackney Council in London have welcomed a court verdict rejecting an appeal against the removal of a club gaming permit and club premises certificate from a premises offering poker in Hackney.
The International Private Members Club had appealed the decision of Hackney Council to withdraw its club premises certificate and cancel the associated gaming permit at a licensing hearing in October 2011. But the appeal was dismissed.
Said the commission’s director of regulatory risk and analysis Matthew Hill: “We welcome this verdict, which confirms that the narrow permission allowing members of genuine members’ clubs to play poker cannot be used to justify the provision of what amounts to a commercial poker club.”
The Gambling Commission is encouraging personal licence holders to register online at its Website in advance of the first five-year maintenance fee payments falling due in September. Payment must be made within 30 days of the fifth anniversary of a personal licence being issued.
As we went to press, New Jersey was poised pass a law allowing the use of mobile devices in Atlantic City casino hotels. The state would be following in the footsteps of Nevada, where the Silverton Casino Hotel is the latest to take advantage of similar rules by signing up Cantor Gaming to run a sportsbook including mobile. Legislators have approved the new law; it now awaits gubernatorial approval.
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