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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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CEEGC 2019

Regulated Central and Eastern European jurisdictions with Andrius Gabnys (Gabnys Law Firm) at CEEGC2019 Budapest

Zoltan Tundik

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Gambling Industry Expert and MARE BALTICUM Gaming Summit Ambassador, Andrius Gabnys (Attorney At Law – Gabnys Law Firm) to moderate compliance-related panel discussion involving regulated markets of Central and Eastern Europe at CEEGC2019 Budapest.

 

The evolution of the online gambling industry in the CEE region has seen its ups and downs, however, when dealing with regulation updates sometimes based on the political climate, it is like that.

When we are mentioning the regulated markets of the CEE region, we are referring to jurisdictions in which the online gambling licensing scheme is already in force for a couple of years and is already considered an “almost mature” industry.

Among these countries, we find Romania, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Croatia, and Slovenia. Jurisdictions that have transparent licensing schemes which allow remote operators to apply for a license and start accepting players in the country. Nevertheless, when it comes to taxing the industry and profit, it is a totally different discussion.

At the 4th edition of the yearly Central and Eastern European Gaming Conference, which will take place on the 24th of September at the Ritz-Carlton Budapest, we are putting together a very interesting panel discussion for both operators and service providers which will be moderated by Andrius Gabnys (Attorney At Law – Gabnys Law Firm) and will be joined by Dan Iliovici (Vice President at Rombet), Georgi Dimitrov (Legal Counsel / Compliance at EGT Interactive), Jan Řehola (Director at IFGR and Partner at PS Legal) and Jaka Repanšek (Media and Gaming Expert).

 

About Andrius Gabnys

Andrius Gabnys is an attorney-at-law and a managing partner at Gabnys Law Firm, a legal boutique based in Vilnius, Lithuania, and Tallinn, Estonia. The Firm specializes in entertainment (gambling, media, arts) and technology (IT, cybersecurity) legal aspects. Andrius Gabnys has been working in the online gambling sector for over 10 years and focuses on the multijurisdictional licensing, IP and related matters. He has extensive experience dealing with the gambling authorities in Europe, CIS countries, Africa and South America.

Make sure that you are among the delegates of CEEGC Budapest this year for a new and engaging format that is going to increase the engagement and interaction of the attending delegates.

Register here or View the Agenda!

Browse the official event website for more details: www.ceegc.eu

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Conferences in Europe

Nominations are open for the 2019 edition of Southern European Gaming Awards (SEG Awards)

Zoltan Tundik

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The SEG Awards is part of European Gaming Congress and rewards both B2C operators and B2B providers for their commitment in Southern Europe, with categories ranging from customer service to social responsibility, future thinking, and development in all verticals of the industry.

We are happy to announce that the nominations for the newly launched awards ceremony is in full swing and you may consider this article as an open invitation to nominate your company for the SEG Awards, which is part of European Gaming Congress (EGC), and will take place in Milan (Italy) on the 8th of November at Radisson Blu Hotel Milan.

The SEG Awards is a new award in the European Gaming Media and Events portfolio and will follow the same transparent process as for CEEG Awards and BSG Awards

The award will be given to the top gaming companies (affiliates, B2C operators and B2B providers) that are active in Southern Europe, also known as Mediterranean Europe and are active in any of the following countries: Italy, Malta, Greece, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Albania, Slovenia, Spain, Cyprus and Portugal.

The categories in 2019 are the following:

  • (Affiliates): Best Bingo Affiliate
  • (Affiliates): Best Casino Affiliate
  • (Affiliates): Best Sports Betting Affiliate
  • (Operators): Best Bingo Operator
  • (Operators): Best Lottery Operator
  • (Operators): Best Casino Operator
  • (Operators): Best Sports Betting Operator
  • (Operators): Best Customer Support in Casino
  • (Operators): Best Customer Support in Sports Betting
  • (B2B – sports ): Best Sports Betting Innovation
  • (B2B – sports): Rising Star in Sports Betting Technology
  • (B2B – sports): Best Overall Sports Betting Provider
  • (B2B – sports): Best Mobile Betting Provider
  • (B2B – sports): Best Overall eSports Service Provider
  • (B2B – sports): Best Overall Virtual Sports / Fantasy Sports Provider
  • (B2B – sports): Rising Star in the Virtual Sports / Fantasy Sports
  • (B2B – casino): Online Casino Innovator
  • (B2B – casino): Rising Star in Online Casino Technology
  • (B2B – casino): Best Online Casino Provider
  • (B2B – casino): Best Slots Provider
  • (B2B – casino): Best Live Casino Provider
  • (B2B – casino): Best Mobile Casino Provider
  • (Connected): Best Overall Payment Service Provider
  • (Connected): Best iGaming Service Provider (Translation and Localization, Hosting Services, Consultancy, Marketing)
  • (Connected): Best Testing Laboratory
  • (Connected): Best Support for Responsible Gambling

Nominate your company here | Register now | View the Provisional Agenda/Program

The European Gaming Congress (EGC) is specially designed to bring together industry experts, regulators, operators and service providers from all across Europe in order to discuss burning issues some of the markets are facing when dealing with compliance in licensing, operation and marketing.

The congress is organized yearly in autumn, gathers +125 C-level executives and gives the opportunity to discuss collaboration opportunities, learn about compliance updates and harvest the tech & marketing-related information which is presented by industry leaders from the ever-evolving international gambling industry community.

The second edition of the yearly must-attend conference of the gambling industry will focus on bringing new content and a different angle of view from the already established and emerging market.

The discussions include compliance and investment opportunities in regulated jurisdictions such as Italy, Malta, Spain, Portugal, France, Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg, Austria, Germany, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, and the United Kingdom.

Besides the regional focus, the agenda includes an exclusive IMGL MasterClass™ will also shed light on hot topics such as Marketing for Operators in Regulated Market, Big Data, AI and payments.

You can register here or view the provisional agenda here!

More info: www.europeangamingcongress.com

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CEEGC 2019

CEEGC2019 Speaker Profile (Poland Briefing): Ewa Lejman (Head of Polish Desk at WH Partners)

Zoltan Tundik

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Polish business lawyer with over 12 years of experience of assisting clients on matters related to gaming and gambling, contract law, M&A and IT service market law to share gambling industry insights of the Polish jurisdiction at CEEGC 2019 Budapest.

As announced earlier, the Polish gambling industry briefing will be part of the “Emerging CEE jurisdictions” compliance panel discussion at CEEGC2019 and will be joined by leading experts of the industry.

The briefing about the jurisdiction will be presented by Ewa Lejman, Head of Polish Desk at WH Partners, who will bring valuable insights she has on how the Polish gambling industry is performing after the new legislation came into force. The panel discussion is important for operators and service providers who can have a direct impact on the market or harvest from their investments.

The 4th edition of the yearly Central and Eastern European Gaming Conference will take place on the 24th of September at the Ritz-Carlton Budapest, and provides a unique opportunity of learning and networking with the gambling industry in the CEE and Balkans region via the CEEGC platform which is committed to bringing together industry shareholders and government officials from the region on a yearly base.

Register here or View the Agenda!

 

About Ewa Lejman

Ewa is heading the Polish Desk of WH Partners as part of the strategic partnership under the WH Partners brand with Izabella Żyglicka and Partners, a very well reputed full-service law firm in Poland and a member of Ally Law.

Ewa is a business lawyer with over 12 years of experience. She assists clients on matters related to gaming and gambling, contract law, M&A and IT service market law.

Ewa has gained extensive experience in the following fields:

  • Gaming and gambling – She handles Polish and foreign economic operators running their businesses on the market; the services provided are connected, in particular, with handling of the process of obtaining licences, establishment and registration of companies related with Polish entities, preparation of documents, such as policies, internal procedures, agreements, terms and conditions, as well as advisory services in cases regarding intellectual property, personal data protection and dealing with litigation;
  • IT and IP law – she handles day-to-day legal and tax services of Polish and foreign companies in this field, including start-ups;
  • International contracts law – she constantly advises and analyses contracts of foreign companies operating on the Polish market, particularly in terms of production, distribution of machines and sales of services involving the IoT;
  • Tax law – she effectively represents clients before tax authorities and administrative courts; she advises alternative investment funds (Alternative Investment Companies – ASI, Alternative Investment Management Companies – ZASI); she has authored publications in this field of law;
  • M&A – she performs multimillion M&A transactions.

Ewa Lejman is a laureate of the Rising Stars Lawyers – the Leaders of Tomorrow 2015 competition. She was ranked 4th in Poland.

http://whpartners.eu/our-team/ewa-lejman

 

Browse the official event website for more details: www.ceegc.eu

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