Legislative novelties in the gaming industry

Central and Eastern European Gaming Conference, held in September this year in Budapest, gathered a prominent group of stakeholders in the gaming sector to discuss the most recent business and legal developments in the industry across the European markets. BDK partner Luka Popović spoke at the Balkans panel about legislative changes in the Montenegrin and Serbian gaming sectors.

Luka stressed that the Montenegrin legislator should move away from the current approach focused on brick and mortar gaming business and provide more appealing environment for online offering.  It appears as obvious that Montenegro has to regulate the online gaming business as an independent activity which can be licensed without establishing a land-based business. The new legislation should impose obligations for operators with respect to prevention of problem gambling. It should also pave the way for a tender for a lottery operator in order to revive this socially most acceptable form of gaming after almost three years of pause.

Luka pointed out that Serbia’s decision to vest the regulatory power in the gaming sector with the newly established Game of Chance Authority instead of with the Ministry of Finance was praised by the industry. The move is generally expected to contribute to efficiency of control in the gaming sector and improve the level playing field. Another important novelty in Serbia is the increase of non-taxable amount of betting winnings to RSD 100,000, a compromise with the betting sector appeals for complete repeal of the winnings tax.

The presentations of participants in other regional panels showed a diversity of regulatory approaches across the EU member states. The differences exist in terms of the very interpretation of what falls under the notion of game of chance, which creates uncertainty for the industry as new products may be viewed or classified differently in different countries. A big focus of the regulators is on implementation of Anti-Money Loundering (AML) rules. This is part of the process to upgrade national AML legislations in the EU countries to match the requirements of the 5th Anti-Money Loundering Directive. Some of the countries apply even more stringent requirements, a notable example being Czechia where the opening of an account with an online gaming provider requires personal presence of the player at the operator’s premises.

An interesting presentation was heard from the representative of the Maltese regulator, who elaborated on the control principles applied by that body. He explained that the regulatory body analyses the type of risk that a particular game bears rather than the technology it utilizes. The type of risk will further determine the type of the risk assessment to be applied. Some games may pose low economy risk but high money laundering risk (e.g. poker games), while other games may give rise to low money laundering but high economy risk (i.e. lottery), and hence different games may require different risk assessment approach.