Making himself loud and clear in an interview with GiocoNews, Pier Paolo Baretta, the outgoing Undersecretary of State at the Italian Finance Ministry affirmed earlier this week, that Italy should apply the terms of the shared online poker liquidity agreement it signed with France, Spain, and Portugal in Rome, last summer.
Clinging to his, responsibility of gambling regulation, Mr. Baretta has been a long-time supporter of the shared liquidity project as a means for the revival of Europe’s segregated poker markets.The politician further emphasised that not implementing the shared liquidity project could be considered a diplomatic gaffe of some sort and would demonstrate lack of respect towards the partners of Italy’s Agenzia delle dogane e dei Monopoli (the local gambling regulator) from France (ARJEL), Spain (DGOJ), and Portugal (SRIJ).
The first shared poker tables went live in Spain and France in mid-January. PokerStars was the first operator to receive the essential authorization to participate in the shared liquidity project. French online poker operator Winamax also acquired a license from ARJEL to roll out shared poker tables. It now needs the go-ahead nod from Spanish regulators in order to be able to operate in the country.
Mr. Baretta told local media that the necessary technical checks that would make it possible for Italy to join the project were completed successfully. In other words, the country’s gambling regulator now only needs to publish the technical standards framework for the implementation of shared liquidity within its borders so that licensed operators are able to merge their player pools in the participating countries.
The recently held general election delayed the start of the shared liquidity scheme in Italy and, as Mr. Baretta pointed out, it is yet to be seen whether the project will be launched by the outgoing government or by the new one. And it seems that there is still a chance of Italy deciding against its participation, although it had been active in the shared liquidity negotiations. While shared liquidity has gained quite some political support in the country, it has also been opposed by a number of influential politicians who have expressed concerns that the project could create conditions for money laundering and other related crimes.
The Dutch start to enforce the Loot Box ban
The Dutch gambling authority will enforce a new ban on loot boxes. They identified four games that offer loot boxes that are considered gambling. According to the public broadcast company these games are FIFA 18, DOTA 2, PlayerUnknown’s BattleGrounds and Rocket League.
These games had until the 20th of june to make changes to the gambling aspect of their loot boxes (has the player influence on what he/she gets? do the items have value outside the game, like market place websites?). Starting from thursday the gambling authority will enforce the rules.
Fines can be 830.000 euro (960.000 dollar) or 10% of the company’s worldwide revenue. If they don’t make changes, the public prosecutor will look into prosecution.
The decision is part of a wider discussion on loot boxes and gambling in games. While Belgium has sided with the Netherlands on the issue, the UK Gambling Commission has ruled that loot boxes don’t constitute gambling under British law, and is joined by the Gambling Compliance office of New Zealand’s Department of Internal Affairs in this decision. In the United States, the ESRB determined loot boxes were not gambling under its own criteria.
It’s well known that, EA has insisted that loot boxes in FIFA aren’t a form of gambling, with CEO Andrew Wilson saying that “EA is “working with all the industry associations globally and with regulators in various jurisdictions and territories, [and] have established that programs like FIFA Ultimate Team are not gambling.”
Vietnamese lawmakers approved larger sports betting margin
Vietnam’s National Assembly voted a bill that will grant locals to bet on certain international football games, on horse and dog racing as well.
Vietnam’s move comes after the US Supreme Court revoked PASPA and allowed the segment to be legalised nationwide. Following the American example Vietnam also made improvements as the National Assembly passed a new bill which allows the Vietnamese to bet on sports events, government-approved ones!
The Law on Sports and Physical Training will go into effect next January 1st and was supported by 457 deputies who voted to approve the bill. It is based on a 2017 decree which allowed the Vietnamese to place bets on certain international football games and horse and greyhound racing which hasn’t impacted the market as there are no operators authorised to operate in Vietnam yet.
While disagreeing ministries have taken a role on a lack of organisation for an operator’s bidding process, economist Nguyen Tri Hieu assured that bookmakers would suffer heavy losses if they were to only offer betting on FIFA-recognised tournaments as the government wants. However, the approved legislation is one more step in the right direction to get the segment up and running.
Norway to renew war against online gambling sites
Norway has appointed a new army chief, so to say, in its war against unauthorised online gambling sites. The Norwegian government appointed Gunn Merete Paulset as the new general director of the Lotteri-og Stiftelsestilsynet, which is the Norwegian gaming authority.
Paulset, an industry veteran, takes reigns during a crucial period in evolution of country’s online gambling industry. The government is seeking new measures to curb online gambling, including the power to force local financial institutions to block payments to internationally licensed gambling sites that compete with the state-owned operators Norsk Tipping and Norsk Tikstoto.
Earlier this month, Norway’s government submitted the text (in Norwegian) of its “regulations concerning the prohibition of the processing of payments for gambling without a Norwegian license” to the European Commission for approval. The EC’s mandatory standstill period extends to September 5, and Norway hopes to impose the new rules by January 1, 2019.
Norwegian banks are already prohibited from directly processing payments on behalf of international gambling sites but the new rules make it clear that they are also forbidden from handling “payment transactions to and from companies that carry out payment transactions on behalf of gambling companies.”
In April 2017, the NGA flagged seven companies it accused of processing over $256m worth of online gambling payments for international operators in a single year. In December, the NGA found that at least two of these companies – Trustly and Entercash – had managed to continue their Norwegian operations simply by changing their account numbers.
As a result, the NGA wants the authority to compel banks to block transactions by the name of the company, rather than be forced to file new blocking demands every time a processor changes account numbers.
The NGA also wants the authority to compel banks to turn over data on suspicious transactions, something the NGA claims is necessary if it is to truly understand the scope of the problem. The NGA pinky-swears that it won’t go all Wikileaks with sensitive customer data and that none of its proposals will result in the banks incurring any significant costs.
Norway previously announced plans to restrict unauthorised gambling operators from advertising to local punters, while opposition politicians approved a measure last month that will force the government to impose domain name service (DNS) blocking of unauthorised gambling sites. Typically, the NGA claims all this is necessary due to “public health” concerns and not simply a way of boosting government revenue by forcing traffic to its gambling monopolies.
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