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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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Balkan's

European Gaming Congress Ljubljana announces Luka Popovic as latest speaker in the Balkans oriented panel discussion

Zoltan Tundik

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European Gaming Congress (EGC) is slowly becoming a must-go-to event in the calendar by attracting lots of attention from operators that are eager to hear more about the compliance updates in Europe from the experts that are going to be present at the conference.

The conference will take place at Grand Union Hotel Ljubljana on the 16th of October and is a must attend event for European operators who are active in regulated and non-regulated markets.

You can Register here or View the Agenda

European Gaming Congress is specially designed to bring together industry experts, regulators, operators and service providers in order to discuss burning issues some of the markets are facing when working with compliance updates and licensing. The event also offers networking sessions which will help attending delegates to meet and greet some of well known faces of the gambling industry in Europe. The agenda will give the opportunity for attending delegates to dive into regulatory updates from Italy, Malta, Slovenia, Austria, Germany, Spain, France, Greece and many more jurisdictions. We look forward to seeing you in Ljubljana with a full day of quality content and networking.

Given the location of the conference, the panel discussion includes regulatory updates from the Balkans region, with special emphasis on Serbia, Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Luka Popovic (partner in the leading regional law firm BDK Advokati) is going to join the “Highlighting the Balkans and Southeast Europe” panel discussion along with Zoran Puhač (European Organization for Gaming Law -EOGL), Tatjana Scepanovic (Montenegro Bet) and Zlatan Omerspahic (NSoft)

The panel discussion will be moderated by Donata Szabo (GamblingCompliance)

About Luka Popovic

Luka is a partner in the leading regional law firm BDK Advokati (with offices in Serbia, Montenegro, and Bosnia and Herzegovina). He is a member of the Montenegrin Bar Association and was on the list of arbitrators of the Arbitration Board for the Resolution of Consumer Disputes at the Chamber of Commerce of Montenegro.

Luka has been managing BDK Advokati’s Montenegrin operations since 2013. He is involved in all aspects of the firm’s Montenegrin work, and maintains special industry focus on gaming and hospitality. Luka is the head of the firm’s gaming practice.

IFLR1000 recognizes Luka as a highly regarded lawyer, Legal 500 regards him as a leading individual in the legal market, and Chambers & Partners ranks him as a top-tier lawyer in Montenegro.

Make sure you register your seat in time to benefit of the great lineup of speakers and meet Luka to hear about how you gambling operation can evolve with the new advertisement banning criteries.

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

Register here!

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CEEGC 2018

CEEGC 2018 Budapest – Less than a week until kick off, see who is attending and why you should not miss it

Zoltan Tundik

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There are only 6 days left until the third edition of the Central and Eastern European Gaming Conference (CEEGC) and Awards (CEEG Awards) opens its doors and gives access for the industry to benefit of this unique opportunity in the CEE region for learning and networking.

CEEGC is the leading conference that is shaping the industry in the CEE region by influencing the emerging market trends.

Rafal Nowak – iGaming Sales Director at Mobiyo stated about last year’s event:

A week after the Budapest Gaming CEE conferences, I’m still discussing the topics brought up there with fellow delegates. Thank you Zoltan Tundik for organizing an informative an well shaped event on this, often underestimated iGaming territory and good luck with the next one!

Kostandina – Nina Zafirovska – CEO at BtoBet also stated last year’s event:

CEEGC in Budapest was the event that brings together experts in the industry together with Central and Eastern European regulators to exchange thoughts and knowledge for development of iGaming in the region. Great experience with wonderful people.

The 2018 event is going to take place on the 25th of September at The Ritz-Carlton Budapest and we are adding 10 more seats to the event because of the high interest shown by industry shareholders to attend the event.

REGISTER HERE, to benefit of an exclusive media partner discount of 15% for your ticket(s). Make sure you use the “CEEGC2018” promo code when registering.

The agenda of the event will feature interesting panel discussions that are focusing on both operators and service providers and among the registered delegates you will find the representatives of NetEnt, Play’n Go, SBTech, BetConstruct, BtoBet, Altenar, Iforium, Superbet, Amusenet, Curacao eGaming, Data Bet, All-in Translations, GLI Europe, Greentube, HiPay, Mobiyo, Orange Pay, Pocket Games Soft, Podium North, RISQ, Sporting Solutions, Endorphina, GamblingCompliance, Fortunaweb, Tom Horn Gaming, Global Legal Group, Payvision, Bethereum, Trustly, Digitain, ARQ Risk & Compliance, Bitpay, Acapture, BetterBetting, Bird&Bird, Danish Online Gambling Association, EGT Interactive, Harris Hagan, Rombet, Playtech, Scout Gaming Group, Tonucci & Partners, EOGL, UltraPlay, WH Partners, NNDKP, Sorainen, MuchBetter, Gaming 5.0 and much more.

The event includes 6 informative panel discussions that focus on emerging markets such as Belarus, Slovakia, Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, Czech Republic and a special IMGL MasterClass about the state of the U.S. market.

You can view the full agenda of CEEGC 2018 on the following link

REGISTER HERE, to benefit of an exclusive media partner discount of 15% for your ticket(s). Make sure you use the “CEEGC2018” promo code when registering.

For more details about the event, visit www.ceegc.eu

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Conferences in Europe

Chris Elliott (Wiggin) to speak about advertisement banning in the UK at EGC 2018 Ljubljana

Zoltan Tundik

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Ljubljana – 17 September 2018 – There is one month until the inaugural European Gaming Congress opens its doors in Ljubljana and we are honored to invite you to join us and the leading operators of the industry at this unique event.

The conference will take place at Grand Union Hotel Ljubljana on the 16th of October and is a must attend event for European operation who are active in regulated and non-regulated markets.

You can Register here or View the Agenda

European Gaming Congress is specially designed to bring together industry experts, regulators, operators and service providers in order to discuss burning issues some of the markets are facing when working with compliance updates and licensing. The event also offers networking sessions which will help attending delegates to meet and greet some of well known faces of the gambling industry in Europe. The agenda will give the opportunity for attending delegates to dive into regulatory updates from Italy, Malta, Slovenia, Austria, Germany, Spain, France, Greece and many more jurisdictions. We look forward to seeing you in Ljubljana with a full day of quality content and networking.

Given the location of the conference, the panel discussion includes regulatory updates from the Balkans region, with special emphasis on Serbia, Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

As announced earlier, European Gaming Congress will feature a special IMGL MasterClass™ which is titled “Advertising for gambling – a new minefield for operators”.

The latest announced expert will join the above mentioned panel and will share the insights about the latest trends in the UK that shape the way operators are allowed to advertise their brands.

About Chris Elliot (Wiggin)

Chris is a commercial and regulatory lawyer, concentrating on providing UK regulatory and compliance advice to various stakeholders in the online gambling and gaming industries.

Chris acts for some of the industry’s leading operators and suppliers, as well as smaller start-up companies, advising on the regulation and marketing of betting and gaming products.

Chris also regularly advises businesses looking to expand into new markets, and has particular expertise in helping businesses understand the legal and regulatory implications associated with operating in regulated and unregulated markets.

Make sure you register your seat in time to benefit of the great lineup of speakers and meet Chris to hear about how you gambling operation can evolve with the new advertisement banning criteries.

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

Register here!

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