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Dr. Mag. Klaus Christian Vögl, the long-serving Managing Director of the Department of Leisure and Sports Facilities in the Vienna Chamber of Commerce, offers here his lucid opinions on gambling and betting legislation in Austria. He not just talks about the nitty-gritty of legislation, but clearly implies where the new legislation could lead the betting industry to.
He is critical of Austria’s legislators and regulator. He says some of the legislators want “simply to preserve and protect the acquis of monopoly companies (Austrian Lotteries, Casinos Austria)”. He talks positively about the way gambling legislation is changing in Europe, especially Central and Eastern Europe.
There is much more. Read on for an enlightening interview with one of the foremost legal experts in Europe.
I’d first like to ask you to begin with a few words about yourself. It’s always nice to hear top-class professionals say a few words about themselves for our audience.
I´m Managing Director of the Department of Leisure and Sports Facilities in the Vienna Chamber of Commerce since 1981. Our specialist group looks after around 40 different branches, from tourist guides to dance schools and sports companies to the gambling and betting sector. The companies in the gambling monopoly sector are members of another division of the Chamber. Here in Austria, we have a statutory compulsory membership of all commercial enterprises in the Chamber of Commerce, which is around 600,000.
Now on to betting laws in Austria. Protective can be a word used for the gambling legislation in the country. It is also somewhat unique in its distinction between betting and gambling. Your thoughts on this?
The distinction made by the Austrian Federal Constitution is indeed special. Gambling is a federal matter and essentially regulated in a monopoly, sports betting is a matter of the state and governed by various different state laws. In the betting area, there is (still) a free market regulated under very strict conditions, apart from Vienna. In Vienna the competent authority, due to political decisions, almost does not issue licenses although we have a brand new state law.
The betting law varies from region to region in Austria. For instance, the betting law of Salzburg is different from that of Vienna. What about a uniform betting legislation throughout the country – like the gambling legislation?
In fact, the current government program plans to transfer the betting system into federal competence. In principle, nothing would be objectionable. For the providers operating throughout Austria, it could even be a great advantage and a simplification. However, we fear that the legislator and the stakeholders behind it could establish a monopoly or oligopoly, in order to eliminate the free market. As was accomplished concerning slot machines before in 2012.
There have been reports about new amendments in the betting and gambling legislation, ranging from IP blocking for online betting to the operation of biometric recognition in slot apparatus and setting up of a Competence Center. How are these legal amendments going to affect the betting industry in the country? Is it going to be stricter?
We fear that the train will roll in the stricter direction. The planned changes in the gambling sector that you address are not yet affecting sports betting. Setting up biometric controls is not a problem for our industry in itself, even welcomed. What worries us most of all at the moment is the demonization of the betting terminals and, in Vienna in special, the legislators fight against betting exchange. Imagine: the whole country, the government and the whole of Europe is talking about digitization, and then we should get back to the bookmakers switch if possible. Whereas it anyway still exists.
Isn’t the conservative approach to betting and gambling legislation a hindrance to the growth of betting and gambling industry in the country?
Absolutely, but that’s the political will of all political parties in Austria. The Chamber of Commerce is also in favour of strict framework conditions. The gambling and betting market does not have to grow at all, but it should be regulated in a consolidated way. This applies, for example, to the area of online gambling, which is totally ignored by our gambling law, or even online betting, for example, for which the Viennese authorities declare to be not responsible. Only in Salzburg you can apply for such a license concerning betting.
The gaming world has been witnessing a massive change with the introduction of new software platforms, crypto currencies and generally smarter operators. How is Austria’s law faring against the changes?
Not at all, these areas are ignored and declared illegal by our regulator. The aim of the legislator is simply to preserve and protect the acquis of monopoly companies (Austrian Lotteries, Casinos Austria).
What are the major challenges facing the formulation of betting and gambling legislation as a whole? There is a thin line separating the need for protecting the society from gambling addiction and the need for allowing the industry to grow economically. How do the legislators negotiate this inherent conflict of interests?
Legislators see, as far as private sector providers are concerned, exclusively the field of protection of players and minors. Economic considerations or argumentation with secure jobs go nowhere, and there is not even a willingness to talk in Vienna. In the federal states, the policy is sometimes more prudent. When, for example, in Vienna in 2014, the “small slot machine game” was turned off by the legislature, this brought many gastronomic businesses and of course also long-established vending machines companies in distress. We argued with a high number of jobs and a tax loss alone from the amusement tax of around 80 million Euros for the city of Vienna, per year. Then a politician in a leading medium said, “these jobs are worth nothing”. In such a view, unfortunately, every factual conversation is unnecessary. On the other hand, the protected monopoly sector is expected to grow, with regular sales and profit figures being published on a regular basis, pointing out the high social importance of gambling. That this is not EU-coherent, is evident.
What are the chances of realizing a unified betting law for Europe, at least for online gambling and betting? A legal equivalent of Euro, that is.
The ball is clearly in the hands of the commission, which has been squandering on the “hot mush” for years. Even the Services Directive excluded the gambling sector. The chances are not good in the short term. In the medium term, the need to intervene regulatively cannot be ignored. We can only hope that this does not happen too restrictive, although with full respect for consumer protection, which is one of the declared main aims oft he EU.
On to a more general question now. E-sports are gaining more recognition and exponential popularity. It may soon be drafted into the Olympics too. Do you see any legal hurdles for the further growth of E-sports?
As long as E-Sports remains skill-based, I do not see any problems, these are normal events. Should it be possible to make the area Olympic, that would be a milestone, because the sport is regulated more favourably than the game. It could also be legally betted on the outcome of e-sports events, which is currently not possible. It is important to observe whether e-sports is not abused for illegal gambling, there is a certain danger I see, and this would put the entire new business sector in the wrong light.
Now the final question – a bit off-topic. You have had a chance to travel a lot owing to your official position. Could you please share some interesting experience during your travels?
It is interesting for me to learn, for example in the Prague meetings, that the countries of Central and Eastern Europe are wider than Austria in terms of realistic regulation of gambling. Unthinkable, for example, that official representatives of the Austrian Ministry of Finance would sit down with operators and ask: what can we do better? Our regulator always knows everything better on its own, even a public corporation like the Chamber of Commerce is only partially heard. Fascinating for me is in my travels, in what a short time Europe has grown together. You can really feel European today, and I do it with all my heart. I still experienced customs borders, the Berlin Wall, the Iron Curtain – an hour’s drive from Vienna. How far away is that today! And that’s good.
Source: European Gaming News
Could UK Government Policy Threaten Online Betting Promos?
Most observers would agree that the UK political class is pursuing a dialogue on the very nature of the gambling industry. The headline issue is, of course, fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBT’s), which have been the focus of a huge campaign. This week the UK Chancellor, Phillip Hammond, announced that the maximum stake in these gaming machines will be cut dramatically starting in October 2019. The move has cross-party support, and even the gambling industry has been vocally supportive, knowing that it at least makes sense from a PR perspective to seem concerned about the issue.
However, FOBT’s are not the only issue being discussed about the industry in the UK, with some changes perhaps having a big impact on punters. Advertising has come under scrutiny recently, with an almost saturated feel to the volume of sports betting adverts played on television during events like Premier League games. Sky, the UK’s dominant figure in sports broadcasting, has agreed to ‘regulate itself’ and limit the number of betting adverts beginning at the start of the 2019 Premier League season.
The move by Sky, while seemingly commendable as they will lose out on a chunk of the estimated £460 million gambling companies spend on advertising in the UK, is also indicative of the fact that the landscape is changing. The Labour Party, in particular, has signalled that they will try to put curbs on many aspects of the industry should they win the next election. For example, Labour deputy leader, Tom Watson, has called for a ban on funding accounts with credit cards and any advertising during live sports events.
However, one area that will be keenly watched by casino players and bettors is that of promotions. Incentives like free bets, price boosts, reload bonuses and the rest are the “carrot” that usually acts as a tipping point to encourage a player to join a new site, but they are certainly not the only reason why people bet. If a Government decides that promotions force people to bet, rather than supplement a decision that has already been made, could they too be in the firing line as the UK authorities try to further regulate the industry?
Free bets offers popular with punters
One would argue that would come to the detriment of the customer, rather than the industry. Consider how a punter might want to bet with William Hill on Real Madrid at 12/1 to win the Champions League, or the Boston Celtics at 7/1 with Bet365 to win the NBA Championships; they could check a list of free bet no deposit 2018 offers and potentially make their bet for free. Is it fair to take away those incentives from the customer?
There is a fine line between the idea of a promotion and the “bet now!” command that is being looked at by the Advertising Standards Agency, but it’s hard to know where that line will be drawn in the future. Punters would be irate to learn that they can’t, for example, go to a bookie and find an incentive like a price boost on the current odds of 12/1 for Chelsea to win the Premier League.
In the end though, money usually settles these matters. While the UK Government has made moves on FOBTs, it was slow-acting because bookmaker shops were keen to point out that those betting terminals equate to jobs. 2017/18 was estimated to have raised £2.8 billion in gaming tax receipts for the UK Exchequer. The Government will be loath to jeopardise that income. The point is: if the bookies can make their case, those promos will be here to stay.
Pragmatic Play roars to life with 5 lions
New release sees ancient spirits guarding amazing riches
15 June 2018: Pragmatic Play, the multi-award-winning games provider, has announced the launch of 5 Lions, a 3×5 video slot steeped in myth and legend.
Chinese iconography lights up the reels of 5 Lions, with turtles, phoenixes and dragons appearing covered in glittering gemstones.
The mystical lions of the game’s title act as the wild symbols, granting the player a random multiplier of up to 40x and springing to life when they appear in any winning line.
Melissa Summerfield, Chief Commercial Officer at Pragmatic Play, said: “Our suite of high quality games continues to go from strength to strength, and 5 Lions is a great addition that we are proud to introduce to our partners and players.
“The game’s mystical air is complemented by an engaging and visually satisfying array of bonus content, and it certainly has the potential to keep players coming back.”
Three gilded yin-yang symbols unlock 5 Lions unique free spins feature, expanding the three central reels to four symbols in height and boosting the potential ways to win from 243 to 576.
Players then have the opportunity to choose between seven lions, offering a wide selection of different multiplier ranges. These options range from six free spins with a range of high multipliers (15x, 30x, or 40x) to 25 free spins with a range of lower multipliers (2x, 3x, or 5x).
Pragmatic Play’s portfolio contains more than 80 proven HTML5 video slots, including Wolf Gold, Chilli Heat and The Champions. These titles are now live with a growing list of leading casino brands, including Mr Green, Betsson and LeoVegas.
For more information on this release or to arrange an interview please contact Tom Lewis at Square in the Air on 020 3586 8257 or email@example.com
About Pragmatic Play
Pragmatic Play is one of the fastest growing providers of slots games in the online gaming industry. It has proven expertise in creating mobile and desktop content that engages modern players. Its expanding portfolio features more than 80 proven HTML5 titles, which support 26 languages and all major currencies, and are built on unique in-house designs.
The provider’s games are attuned to the needs of players and operators in regulated markets all over the world and are now a fixture on many of the leading casino brands.
For more information please visit http://pragmaticplay.com/
Source: European Gaming News
21Bet upgrades Sportsbook with Digitain
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June 15th, 2018 – Digitain the multi-channel casino and sports betting platform provider confirmed that Malta-licensed 21Bet had been successfully migrated to Digitain’s fully managed sportsbook solution.
21Bet is operated by Aureate Gaming Solutions Ltd and is also the official shirt sponsors of Waterford FC. Under the agreement, Digitain provided its API technology for 21Bet’s online operations including a new improved version of their sportsbook, with features that include cash out, edit my bet, and express bonus and the latest promotional tools for player marketing acquisition and retention.
Digitain CEO, Suren Khachatryan, said: “21Bet is a growing brand in Europe and we are delighted to be their technology partner of choice. Digitain’s frictionless API integration along with our fully managed Sportsbook will deliver 21Bet with enhanced user experience and over 30,000 real live monthly events and full coverage of the most popular sports in Pre-match and Live Betting, and cash out options. 21Bet will also have access to the latest World Cup content zone, including team news, standings, and head-2-head to further engage players throughout this year’s largest betting tournament.”
James Hudson CEO at 21bet, said: “Our company’s vision is to have the optimal strategic partnership with our technology providers. Digitain has a proven international and European market expertise, and their technology allows our brand to be agile and flexible, and in control of our roadmap to adapt to ever-changing market conditions and player preferences. The Digitain team are a delight to work with and they made the migration to our new sportsbook as smooth as silk! ”
Digitain has more than 1,000 employees, 35+ global partners, and more than 400 betting shops worldwide.
The multi-channel Digitain Gaming Platform allows for a frictionless turnkey or white-label solution for both land-based and online operators via our API’s to integrate a sportsbook, casino, live dealer, and virtual sports modules. The stack also includes an extensive payment gateway, bonus engine, CRM system, and dedicated customer support 24/7.
The sportsbook product covers 30,000 live events each month, across 65 sports taking in 7,500 leagues, and more than 3,000 betting markets, while our casino solution has 3,000+ games from the likes of NetEnt, Microgaming, and Playson and many more.
Source: European Gaming News
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