While our team is gearing up for our event in Prague, I have managed to catch up with Ivan Sagál, who is a Managing Partner of Bird & Bird offices in the Czech Republic and Slovakia. You can meet Ivan in person by attending the second edition of Prague Gaming Summit which will be held on the 29th of March at Andel’s by Vienna House Prague. You can find more details here.
With this occasion, I would also like to thank you for following my interview series and for sharing these information with your colleagues and partners. If you would like to be featured in an upcoming interview, please send me an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org and I will happily get back to you!
Thank you very much for accepting our invitation and answering the questions. You have more than 20 years of experience in the commercial, corporate and financial law, advising clients from across a number of sectors including lottery & gaming, telecommunications, media & entertainment and financial services. Why did you choose the gaming industry?
Ivan: It is an interesting question. If answered lightly, it is rather that the gaming industry chose me than the other way round. One of my main areas of focus since the beginning of my career has always been the transactional work – that is helping international and local companies expand their business through acquisitions, joint ventures, strategic commercial contracts and various other forms of business deals, as well as in getting the necessary funding for those deals. For many years, companies with business interests in the gaming industry have been among my clients, and naturally, when you want to provide a high-quality expert advice in a transaction involving a gaming business, you need to understand the strategic commercial issues that gaming industry is facing as well as the regulatory legal framework. And when you initially get this insight into the industry, it is just logical you keep yourself abreast of subsequent industry developments (whether they relate to business, technology or regulation) as you never know when another gaming client would be seeking your support based on positive references from your previous clients.
The company you work at, Bird & Bird is a leading global law firm with a strong focus on the businesses sectors where digitalization and technology plays a key role, including gaming industry. What is the focus on in your work at the company; what are the key values of this company?
Ivan: One of the main strategy pillars of Bird & Bird has always been excellence in client service achieved through a strong sector focus. We believe that what differentiates the top legal advisors from the good ones is their deep understanding of the particular industry sector in which their client operates which must be in addition to their excellent legal skills. Many of our lawyers have additional professional background. This is thanks to their previous career in the particular industry or thanks to their additional technical education. Another key element of our strategy is our international reach, meaning that when clients come to us through any of our international offices, they get the same level of service, whether in terms of project management, legal expertise or the sector knowledge. We achieved that through a strong emphasis on the ‘one firm’ approach in internal procedures, knowledge sharing as well as cross-border client projects.
Please tell us more about the services the company offers especially those which are connected to gaming, gambling.
Ivan: Bird & Bird is a full service global law firm, providing advice in all main areas of business law, including Corporate/M&A, Banking & Finance, Dispute Resolution, Employment, Intellectual Property, Privacy & Data Protection, Outsourcing, Real Estate, Tax etc. We have developed an unparalleled expertise in a number of industry sectors, especially those based on, or largely being re-shaped by, the new technologies and digitalization. Naturally, gaming industry is at the forefront of this change, given its rapid development towards the digital era, and we help gaming companies adopting to new regulatory challenges as well as expanding their reach to new markets. This involves advising in all aspects of licensing procedures (whether in setting up businesses or updating licensing scope due to new legislative changes), sorting out ad hoc regulatory issues (whether due to the probes or inspections by the authorities or new business ideas crossing the regulatory borderline), analyzing and outlining solutions in situations where several other regulatory frameworks overlap with gaming regulation (such as marketing and advertising rules, data protection/GDPR issues, payment services regulation under the PSD2 directive etc.), as well as all forms of transactional support – acquisitions, joint ventures, strategic commercial contracts, new technology deployments etc.
You have more than 20 years of experience in the business. Will you please tell your opinion about the European gaming industry and also about the gaming industry of the Czech Republic?
Ivan: In my view the gaming and betting industry as a whole is one of the fastest-changing industry sectors of the last decade. I am fascinated by the speed of this change, which to a large extent is due to a rapid development of new technologies and moving the user experience into the online world. What this brings, of course, is a totally new perspective for the national regulators, who historically have been very much used to control the domestic playgrounds tightly without giving much consideration to what was happening elsewhere in the world. With the digitalization of the business and the online environment, the visible borderlines are suddenly gone and of course the largest international players are somehow disrupting the status quo in smaller markets. When you add to the mixture the general principle of freedom to provide services under EU legislation and on the other hand the commonly accepted risks of unregulated (or under-regulated) gaming or betting on the society, plus the difficulties of the tax authorities to track or allocate the income from such online activities based on its geographical source, it is clear that everyone involved is facing many uncertainties. I still see, however, that in general the industry is doing well, whether Europe-wide or in our country, so apparently it is possible to adapt to the challenge and live well.
Last year the government of Czech Republic planned to restrict online bonuses and free bets, because they found alleged links between these promotions and problem gambling. What is the situation now concerning this issue?
Ivan: It is not that much about imposing new restrictions through e.g. a legislation amendment, but rather about a narrower vs. wider interpretation of the existing provisions of the new Czech gaming law by the regulator (Ministry of Finance). It is true that the regulator has issued a standpoint to certain forms of bonuses and free bets from the perspective of compliance with the general rules of Czech gaming law. This has been issued in August last year, so it is relatively fresh and is yet to be tested in the potential administrative proceedings (or later court proceedings) in a particular case. Also, it has to be mentioned that the standpoint does not automatically mark all forms of bonuses as illegal, it rather analyses the rationale and nature of the particular bonus in the light of legislation provisions and generally divides these bonuses in three categories – generally allowed, allowed if included in the pre-approved gaming plan or disallowed. However, the standpoint is not a generally binding law but rather just the guidance, and as such may be changed or overcome in the future.
How did this new situation, the restrictions affect the Czech gambling industry and what would be the solution for the future of this sector in your country?
Ivan: As already mentioned, the new Czech gaming law definitely changed the landscape of the industry locally, and generally imposed additional requirements on the compliance functions of all market players. Based on my initial observation, however, it definitely did not ”kill” the market (as was feared by many players before the enactment of the law) and it is still too fresh to analyze its deeper impacts on the industry as well as the society. In my view, however, the future of the Czech gambling would be very much inter-linked with whatever developments in more advanced jurisdictions (especially within the EU), both with respect to the further technology and digitalization development, as well as regulatory framework (including more unified interpretation and application of the general regulatory principles).
To meet Ivan in person, make sure you register and attend Prague Gaming Summit 2018, held on the 29th of March at Andel’s by Vienna House Prague.
Ivan Sagál is a Managing Partner of Bird & Bird offices in the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Bird & Bird is a leading global law firm with a strong focus on the businesses sectors where digitalization and technology plays a key role, including gaming industry.
Ivan has more than 20 years of experience in the commercial, corporate and financial law, advising clients from across a number of sectors including lottery & gaming, telecommunications, media & entertainment and financial services.
His team has been actively involved in advising various gaming companies from market leading national lotteries and gambling multinationals to small peer-2-peer gambling startups on a broad range of legal issues including gaming regulatory and licensing matters, legality of advertising of gaming products, data protection, compliance, regulatory aspects of consumer protection, competition, commercial, and transactional matters.
Ivan is a member of the Czech and Slovak Bar.
Anticipate a different EUROMAT Summit this year as the best is yet to unfold
The annual European Gaming and Amusement Federation (EUROMAT) Summit has been scheduled to commence from the 4th of June this year. As promised by the Association President, Jason Frost the event is expected to unfold in a very different way this year than the previous years. Concluding on the 6th of June the summit will last for 3 consecutive days. Traditionally the Summit has been a pan-European gathering of the associations representing land-based gaming and amusements, along with regulators and policymakers.
However, Jason Frost pointed out that: “Previous summits have proved extremely productive but there is no doubt that the event has acquired something of a reputation for exclusivity. The landscape of gaming and amusements is shifting and we are confronting many new challenges. Ultimately, many of the solutions will rest with equipment manufacturers and operators.”
“It’s really important, therefore that the summit becomes more inclusive and that all facets of the industry are represented. The event will provide the perfect opportunity for those at the sharp-end to meet regulators and legislators face-to-face in a relaxed and informal environment,” assured Jason.
In a preponderant step towards a more inclusive environment EUROMAT has opened a Corporate Membership category, custom- made to allow members to input into the policy recommendations made to the EU and other European institutions, as well as benefit from alerts and insight into legal and regulatory issues.
One of the original corporate members, JVH Gaming, confirms that membership has been very rewarding, with CEO Eric Olders commenting: “International cooperation and consolidation is becoming increasingly important, in the land-based gaming market. Our EUROMAT membership helps us in obtaining a more international perspective. The network creates an opportunity for international learning and cooperation. Furthermore, the international knowledge, expertise, and size of EUROMAT is very much welcomed in our local lobby efforts as well.”
In addition to being updated on the latest legal developments, manufacturers and other summit participants will also have the opportunity to engage with several European regulators.
A fresh new format sees the summit devoting an entire day to Social Responsibility, including self-exclusion, technology, and problem gambling. Also new for 2018, amusements will have their own focus, with a session exploring potential opportunities for Redemption in the French market.
Speaking about commercial opportunities created by the Summit, Jason Frost revealed, “At recent trade expos we’ve seen some truly revolutionary developments in payment technology. We have a limited amount of space for product demonstrations and it’s my hope that some manufacturers will seize this opportunity to introduce their products to a highly influential audience.”
Contact: Organiser Karen Cooke: email@example.com for more information about exciting opportunities for showcasing your brand and latest technology at the EUROMAT Summit.
The location for The EUROMAT Summit will be the spectacular Monte Carlo Bay Hotel & Resort, located on its own peninsula within Monte Carlo. Jason Frost explains the choice of location: “This year we are reaching out to a wider gaming and amusements community and we wanted to offer them something truly memorable. A programme of cocktail receptions, lunches and a Gala Dinner at one of Monaco’s most iconic venues will add to the compelling business arguments for attending.”
To register, or for more details about attending the EUROMAT Summit and adding your voice to that of the European amusements and gaming industry, visit www.euromat.org
Prague Gaming Summit 2018 welcomes SBTech as Registration Sponsor
Prague – 14 March 2018 – We are honored to announce the support of SBTech as Registration Sponsor at the second edition of Prague Gaming Summit which will be held at Andel’s by Vienna House Prague on the 29th of March.
As we’ve announced in earlier press releases, the event will be fully packed and the content of the seminar promises to set the bar even higher than usual.
With 30 experts speakers sharing information about legal updates from Czechia, Slovakia, Poland, Slovenia, Switzerland, Austria and also focusing on Responsible Gambling, Effective Marketing, AML, Blockchain, Conversion, Retention and Gambling Licensing Procedures in the European Union, the program of the event is unique in the industry.
Make sure you register in order to get a chance to networking with the representatives of Fortuna Group Entertainment, Sazka, Superbet, NetEnt, Cubits, Payout s.r.o., Nmi Gaming, Data Bet, Pangea Localization Services, PMU, BMM Testlabs, ROMBET, All-In Translations, Betgenius, Endorphina, Vemantia, Kajot, Genii Limited, Quickspin, Apollo Games, Astra Games, Ladbrokes Coral, Mr.Green, Boston Link and much more.
Visit the official website of the event for more details: https://praguegamingsummit.com/
SBTech is a global leader in omni-channel sports betting and gaming, with over 1,000 employees in 11 locations worldwide. Since 2007, SBTech has developed the industry’s most powerful online sports betting and casino platform, serving more than 50 licensees in over 20 regulated markets.
SBTech’s clients include many of the world’s premier betting and gaming operators, state lotteries, land-based casino and horse racing companies, and igaming start-ups. The group supplies uniquely flexible betting and gaming solutions to clients looking for speed to market and exceptional configurability, supported by the best business intelligence and reporting capabilities.
The SBTech offering includes its Seamless Sportsbook, the Chameleon360 iGaming Platform, Managed Services, and retail and omni-channel solutions that provide players with constant access to sports and casino products across all touchpoints: online, mobile and retail.
Backed up by unrivalled expertise in trading and risk management, regulatory compliance, AML and KYC procedures, acquisition and CRM, SBTech’s partners consistently achieve rapid growth, enhanced brand loyalty and peak profitability.
For more information, visit: www.sbtech.com
Exclusive Interview with Jan Řehola (Partner at PS Legal) and speaker at Prague Gaming Summit 2018
This week it’s all about the Czech Republic and our latest interviewee is a highly respected expert who shares his expertise at gaming events. Jan Řehola is a frequent speaker at our events and always bring quality information about the market’s updates. You can meet Jan in person by attending the second edition of Prague Gaming Summit which will be held on the 29th of March at Andel’s by Vienna House Prague. You can find more details here.
Hello Jan, thank you accepting this interview, please tell us little bit about yourself, with now over 7 years of experience in the gaming industry, how did you continuously venture to the industry, I mean what was the main reason and what are your key activities, now within the niche?
Jan: As a gambling lawyer I found myself the most beneficial in helping operators, suppliers, testing labs and all other stakeholders involved in gambling industry to be still fully updated and fully complaint with constantly changing regulation. As gambling is highly controversial topic often in spotlight of politicians – regulation is changing very quickly so legal, and especially compliance, plays still more and more important role. What I really like the most on my work is helping my clients to develop and successfully introduce new products on market. By being part of client’s development team, I have priceless opportunity to learn new competences what helps me go every day to my office with joy and enthusiasm.
Working for 4 years for the Ministry of Finance – Czech Gambling regulator, firstly as a Head of the Legal Unit and later as a Director of Gambling Department, what do you consider you could share with us and with the readers as updates on the Czech Gaming Market?
Jan: Czech gambling market is currently undergoing the biggest restructuring from the velvet revolution in 1989. We have new Gambling Act fully in force from 2017. This Gambling Act for the first time in history introduces specific regulation for online gambling and opens whole Czech gambling market for companies established anywhere within EEA. With gambling tax based on GGR and reasonable license conditions, because new regulatory framework on paper looks very good. Unfortunately, in fact application of new Gambling Act caused some difficulties. Considering some recently issued secondary regulation (e.g. guidelines on Bonuses) and transposition of 4th AML Directive unfortunately it can be concluded that to some extent those things spoil idea of regulated, modern and highly competitive market. Currently it is very hard especially for foreign operators to meet specific requirements of Czech regulator and therefore we still have just one foreign operator with licence based on new Gambling Act (Pokerstars holds licence for sport betting, poker and so called “live game”). With new government in place some changes are expected to happen in near future. It can be presumed that some requirements which form obstacles could be potentially removed. Ministry is still working on pack of secondary regulations dealing with technical standards and also preparing big public tender for control monitoring system. Potential stakeholders on Czech market should therefore follow and supervise this preparatory works with due diligence.
Going further, You were responsible for all gambling policy issues, including drafting of new legislation, issuing of gambling licences and cooperation with other European regulators as a member of European Commission Expert Group on Online Gambling, what can you tell us about this year’s updates(in 2018), can we expect major changes on the Czech Gambling Market as we know were some tensions between governments, regulators and the gambling industry.
Jan: As mentioning before we can presume that with new, more business-oriented government in place, regulator can to some extent be more reasonable in licensing procedure. Those operators, suppliers and testing labs having experiences with licensing process in the Czech Republic can provide a testimony that hitherto regulator was more focus on formal requirements than on real substance of licenced product. Some requirements are Czech specific and therefore hardly understandable for foreign licence seekers. This could be changed. As regulator is expected to be more open, I see big room for suppliers and testing labs delivering products in many regulated market to open dialogue with regulator and help him to rebuilt licence process to be more substance oriented.
Due to your background and well versed in all aspects of gambling operations, please tell us more about how PS Legal works, as PS Legal has a rich experience in gambling field and provide professional and high quality legal and compliance consultancy to key players on Czech gambling market.
Jan: I am really enjoying our teamwork at PS Legal. This law firm has long history but when me and my colleagues joined its teams it becomes leading company in gambling field in the Czech Republic. We are focusing not only on gambling but trying to offer expertise in all new emerging industries and technologies where clients can suffer in finding professional legal help with knowledge of this specific industry. Currently we are for instance building division focusing on legal help in field of cryptocurrency or rather blockchain technology in general. We strongly believe that this rapidly developing market can play huge role in upcoming years. What I really like the most is that we are young but highly educated bunch of friends having fun in helping our clients to meet regulatory requirements in versatile areas. By doing this we are still learning and therefore our work is far from being routine.
What are your main responsibilities at PS Legal, as it is a Prague based law firm specialized in providing legal services to all sectors of the gaming industry?
Jan: In PS Legal I am heading its gambling department. This takes currently more than 70 % of my work capacity. As mentioned before we are currently building also department dealing with cryptocurrency and data protections issues. For this I am helping with head hunting process as our team is growing at a fast pace. This type of work I found very fulfilling. I am trying to use experience I got from Ministry of Finance where I was responsible for team of 35 people. I really like see how young people grow in front of your eyes as you gave them room and responsibility.
Do you have a personal opinion regarding the Gambling Market focusing on Czech Republic and the Czech Gambling-related Market? What are the PS Legal company’s future plans in the gaming sector and what are your personal next steps and projects regarding your professional life and achieving your personal goals?
Jan:I am sure that Czech market would become more competitive in year 2018. With many applicants seeking to get licence and with licensees seeking to get new product on market we can see rapidly evolving market. Currently we see huge restructuring and M&A in land-based market that undergoing huge changes and some M&A could be expected in online world too. I believe, PS legal would play still important role in this process. Whit our expertise and experience I also hope we can help to establish dialog among all stakeholders and regulator to work together on common goal – functioning regulated market where player is protected, and operators can offer them attractive product.
To meet Jan in person, make sure you register and attend Prague Gaming Summit 2018, held on the 29th of March at Andel’s by Vienna House Prague.
Jan Řehola has over 7 years of experiences in gambling field, both from the public and private sector. He is a master of Law from the Charles University in Prague.
Jan has been working for 4 years for the Ministry of Finance – Czech Gambling regulator, firstly as a Head of the Legal Unit and later as a Director of Gambling Department. In his work for the Czech Gambling regulator Jan was responsible for all gambling policy issues, including drafting of new legislation, issuing of gambling licences and cooperation with other European regulators as a member of European Commission Expert Group on Online Gambling.
Due to his background, he is well versed in all aspects of gambling operations.
PS Legal is Prague based law firm specialized in providing legal services to all sectors of the gaming industry. PS Legal has rich experience in gambling field and provide professional and high quality legal and compliance consultancy to key players on Czech gambling market.
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