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Exclusive Interview with Ivan Sagál (Managing Partner of Bird & Bird offices in the Czech Republic and Slovakia)

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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 reka.szalo@europeangaming.eu 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.

Interviewee profile:

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.

Reka is an Experienced English second language teacher with a demonstrated history of working in the higher education industry. Skilled in Microsoft Excel, Teaching English as a Foreign Language, Translation, Foreign Languages, and Lecturing. Strong education professional with a Bachelor’s Degree majored in English Language and Literature/Letters. Reka is in charge of conducting the exclusive interviews on European Gaming and our printed magazine

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Conferences in Europe

CEEG Awards 2018 sees huge interest, new categories added, nominate by 15 July 2018

Zoltan Tundik

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Budapest – 22 June 2018 –The Central and Eastern European markets are vital in terms of realizing our vision of providing software and services in every regulated market and we are absolutely delighted to have won the award for Best Sports Betting Provider at the 2017 CEEG Awards. As a company we’re very proud that the quality and depth of our product is recognized in this way and we look forward to expanding further in the region.“, these were the words of Richard Carter, Chief Executive of SBTech, after winning the Best Sports Betting Provider last year at the Central and Eastern European Gaming Awards (CEEG Awards).

The gambling industry in the CEE region has seen a significant growth in the past 3 years and it seems that the once small gathering which awarded the top companies in the region has grown to become a prestigious gaming award.

The awards ceremony at CEEGC (Central and Eastern European Gaming Conference) has been part of the event from the first edition and during the last 2 years the category numbers are increasing yearly.

Such is the case in 2018 as well! A month ago, we have announced that this year there will be 15 categories, but due to the high number of nominations and requests, 5 new categories have been added to the list.

With the addition of the 5 new categories, we have revamped the award classes and will make it more interesting for runner ups.

European Gaming Media and Events, the producer of Central and Eastern European Gaming Conference and Awards is honored to announce that the awards will be given for the following categories:

B2B Sports categories:

Best Sports Betting Innovation, “Rising Star” in Sports Betting Technology*, Best Overall Sports Betting Provider, Best Overall eSports Service Provider*, “Rising Star” in Fantasy Sports*, Best Overall in Fantasy Sports*

B2B – Casino and Lottery categories:

Online Casino Innovator, “Rising Star” in Online Casino Technology*, Best Online Casino Provider, Best Cryptocurrency Gaming Platform*, Best Lottery Service Provider*

Operators – Sports categories:

Best Customer Support*, Best Overall Sports Betting Operator

Operators – Casino categories:

Best Customer Support*, Best Overall Online Casino

Media and connected services (payment processors, translation, testing, etc.) categories:

Best Overall Payment Service Provider, Best iGaming Press in the region, Best iGaming Service Provider (Translation and Localization, Hosting, Consultancy), Best Testing Laboratory

Responsible Gambling (open for providers and operators)*

Best Support for Responsible Gambling

*new category in 2018

You can nominate your company on the following link: https://ceegc.eu/awards/categories-2018/

Nominations phase closes on 15 July 2018 and will be followed by the online voting period between 1-31 August 2018.

The top 5 voted companies will reach the shortlist and the winners of each category will be decided by envelope style voting by present delegates at CEEGC Budapest on the 25th of September at The Ritz-Carlton Budapest.

 

OFFICIAL LOGO OF CEEG AWARDS

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Conferences in Europe

CEEGC2018 Budapest announces BetConstruct as official lanyards and badge sponsor

Zoltan Tundik

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Photo credits: European Gaming Media
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Budapest – 22 June 2018 – We are honored to announce BetConstruct as the official lanyards and badge sponsor at the third edition of Central and Eastern European Gaming Conference and Awards.

The ongoing partnership between BetConstruct, cutting-edge technology developer of the gaming industry, and CEEGC Budapest started in 2016 at the first edition of the conference and has continued ever since then.

The third edition of Central and Eastern European Gaming Conference and Awards is going to take place on the 25th of September at The Ritz-Carlton Budapest and promises to catapult the conference even further as the leading boutique style executive event in the region.

With an impressive lineup of speakers and unlimited opportunities for delegates to harvest quality content, the conference promises to be sell out!

The subtitle of the 2018 event is “The age of Machine Intelligence and how regulators must keep up with technology” and the agenda is full of high quality content. CEEGC 2018 will once again feature regulatory and compliance related panel discussions about Romania, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Belarus, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland, but will also focus on Responsible Gambling, AML, Licensing Procedures in the European Union, Innovation and will feature a special IMGL MasterClass™.

Make sure you grab your seat in time and attend the most prestigious boutique style gaming event which gather C-level executives yearly in one of Europe’s most visited city.

Register here!

 

About BetConstruct

BetConstruct is an award-winning developer and provider of online and land-based gaming solutions with development, sales and service centers in 16 countries.

BetConstruct’s innovative and proven offerings include an extensive range of products and services, including Sportsbook, Sports Data Solutions, Retail Solutions, RNG & Live Dealer Casino, VR Casino, Poker, Skill Games, Fantasy Sports, Social Platform and more. The latest addition is the industry-first complete management infrastructure, SpringBME (Business Management Environment).

All partners benefit from the BetConstruct Spring platform with its powerful back office tools and all-inclusive services that empower operators’ growth and help contain their costs. From stand-alone set up to turn-key and white label solutions, BetConstruct offers its partners unfettered opportunity to succeed.

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Central Europe

Dr. Raffaela Zillner, LL.M to join European Gaming Congress (EGC 2018) Ljubljana, Austrian market update

Zoltan Tundik

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Ljubljana – 13 June 2018 – The inaugural edition of European Gaming Congress will be held on the 16th of October at the Grand Union Hotel in Ljubljana and it’s the latest conference we are putting together. (read more about the event here…)

The event is expected to bring together industry expert from all over Europe and create a platform which will enable both networking and learning at the highest quality.

As the event will touch base about many important updates coming from European jurisdictions, one of the subjects of the first panel discussion is the Austria gambling market.

The Austrian gaming market grew by 4 per cent and the revenues touched the €1.675 billion mark in 2017. These are impressive figures, but internationally licensed operators account for 65 per cent of the segment’s revenue.

According to Andreas Kreutzer, of the Kreutzer Fischer & Partner consultancy, online gambling, fuelled by international websites, grew by 11 per cent anyway and had the largest share of the growth.

It is not a positive news for Win2Day brand, the only locally approved online operator. The Austrian government needs to update laws to implement a proper taxation regime on the segment.

The OVWG called forth that a new regulation with a licensing procedure is urgently needed in Austria, but that 50 million and more than 1,000 qualified jobs are at risk with the planned revision. Game and betting stakes have increased by around 10 percent in the last two years, while the online market increased 25 percent in 2016.

While the BMF argues in its draft that player protection is a top priority, the OVWG said that the argument to justify the market exclusion of unlicensed reputable providers does not apply because some already have valid EU licenses, therefore they meet high standards in terms of player protection.

You may have gotten used to bad news coming about the Austrian gambling market when it comes to licensing, but Dr. Raffaela Zillner, LL.M is hoping to bring some positive news to EGC this fall.

Dr. Raffaela Zillner, LL.M. runs the General Secretariat of the Austrian Association for Betting and Gambling (OVWG). In this position, she’s the first point of contact for all association matters. Raffaela holds a law degree as well as a Master’s degree in Information and Media Law and a doctoral degree in law. Furthermore, Raffaela successfully passed the Vienna (Lawyers) Bar exam. In her professional career, she has worked as an Associate at a Vienna-based law firm with a special focus on gambling and sports betting law.

You can view the full agenda on the following link.

Full detail about the event can be found on the official website of the event: https://europeangamingcongress.com/

Make sure you grab your seat as the seats are limited to 100 registrants!

Register here!

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