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Interview with Dr. Mag. Klaus Christian Vögl

Niji Ng

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Reading Time: 5 minutes

Dr. Mag. Klaus Christian Vögl, the long-serving Managing Director of the Department of Leisure and Sports Facilities in the Vienna Chamber of Commerce, offers here his lucid opinions on gambling and betting legislation in Austria. He not just talks about the nitty-gritty of legislation, but clearly implies where the new legislation could lead the betting industry to.

He is critical of Austria’s legislators and regulator. He says some of the legislators wantsimply to preserve and protect the acquis of monopoly companies (Austrian Lotteries, Casinos Austria)”. He talks positively about the way gambling legislation is changing in Europe, especially Central and Eastern Europe.

There is much more. Read on for an enlightening interview with one of the foremost legal experts in Europe.

I’d first like to ask you to begin with a few words about yourself. It’s always nice to hear top-class professionals say a few words about themselves for our audience.

Klaus: I´m Managing Director of the Department of Leisure and Sports Facilities in the Vienna Chamber of Commerce since 1981. Our specialist group looks after around 40 different branches, from tourist guides to dance schools and sports companies to the gambling and betting sector. The companies in the gambling monopoly sector are members of another division of the Chamber. Here in Austria, we have a statutory compulsory membership of all commercial enterprises in the Chamber of Commerce, which is around 600,000.

 

Now on to betting laws in Austria. Protective can be a word used for the gambling legislation in the country. It is also somewhat unique in its distinction between betting and gambling. Your thoughts on this?

Klaus: The distinction made by the Austrian Federal Constitution is indeed special. Gambling is a federal matter and essentially regulated in a monopoly, sports betting is a matter of the state and governed by various different state laws. In the betting area, there is (still) a free market regulated under very strict conditions, apart from Vienna. In Vienna the competent authority, due to political decisions, almost does not issue licenses although we have a brand new state law.

 

The betting law varies from region to region in Austria. For instance, the betting law of Salzburg is different from that of Vienna. What about a uniform betting legislation throughout the country – like the gambling legislation?

Klaus: In fact, the current government program plans to transfer the betting system into federal competence. In principle, nothing would be objectionable. For the providers operating throughout Austria, it could even be a great advantage and a simplification. However, we fear that the legislator and the stakeholders behind it could establish a monopoly or oligopoly, in order to eliminate the free market. As was accomplished concerning slot machines before in 2012.

 There have been reports about new amendments in the betting and gambling legislation, ranging from IP blocking for online betting to the operation of biometric recognition in slot apparatus and setting up of a Competence Center. How are these legal amendments going to affect the betting industry in the country? Is it going to be stricter?

Klaus: We fear that the train will roll in the stricter direction. The planned changes in the gambling sector that you address are not yet affecting sports betting. Setting up biometric controls is not a problem for our industry in itself, even welcomed. What worries us most of all at the moment is the demonization of the betting terminals and, in Vienna in special, the legislators fight against betting exchange. Imagine: the whole country, the government and the whole of Europe is talking about digitization, and then we should get back to the bookmakers switch if possible. Whereas it anyway still exists.

Isn’t the conservative approach to betting and gambling legislation a hindrance to the growth of betting and gambling industry in the country?

Klaus: Absolutely, but that’s the political will of all political parties in Austria. The Chamber of Commerce is also in favour of strict framework conditions. The gambling and betting market does not have to grow at all, but it should be regulated in a consolidated way. This applies, for example, to the area of online gambling, which is totally ignored by our gambling law, or even online betting, for example, for which the Viennese authorities declare to be not responsible. Only in Salzburg you can apply for such a license concerning betting.

The gaming world has been witnessing a massive change with the introduction of new software platforms, crypto currencies and generally smarter operators. How is Austria’s law faring against the changes?

Klaus: Not at all, these areas are ignored and declared illegal by our regulator. The aim of the legislator is simply to preserve and protect the acquis of monopoly companies (Austrian Lotteries, Casinos Austria).

What are the major challenges facing the formulation of betting and gambling legislation as a whole? There is a thin line separating the need for protecting the society from gambling addiction and the need for allowing the industry to grow economically. How do the legislators negotiate this inherent conflict of interests?

Klaus: Legislators see, as far as private sector providers are concerned, exclusively the field of protection of players and minors. Economic considerations or argumentation with secure jobs go nowhere, and there is not even a willingness to talk in Vienna. In the federal states, the policy is sometimes more prudent. When, for example, in Vienna in 2014, the “small slot machine game” was turned off by the legislature, this brought many gastronomic businesses and of course also long-established vending machines companies in distress. We argued with a high number of jobs and a tax loss alone from the amusement tax of around 80 million Euros for the city of Vienna, per year. Then a politician in a leading medium said, “these jobs are worth nothing”. In such a view, unfortunately, every factual conversation is unnecessary. On the other hand, the protected monopoly sector is expected to grow, with regular sales and profit figures being published on a regular basis, pointing out the high social importance of gambling. That this is not EU-coherent, is evident.

 

What are the chances of realizing a unified betting law for Europe, at least for online gambling and betting? A legal equivalent of Euro, that is.

Klaus: The ball is clearly in the hands of the commission, which has been squandering on the “hot mush” for years. Even the Services Directive excluded the gambling sector. The chances are not good in the short term. In the medium term, the need to intervene regulatively cannot be ignored. We can only hope that this does not happen too restrictive, although with full respect for consumer protection, which is one of the declared main aims oft he EU.

 

On to a more general question now. E-sports are gaining more recognition and exponential popularity. It may soon be drafted into the Olympics too. Do you see any legal hurdles for the further growth of E-sports?

Klaus: As long as E-Sports remains skill-based, I do not see any problems, these are normal events. Should it be possible to make the area Olympic, that would be a milestone, because the sport is regulated more favourably than the game. It could also be legally betted on the outcome of e-sports events, which is currently not possible. It is important to observe whether e-sports is not abused for illegal gambling, there is a certain danger I see, and this would put the entire new business sector in the wrong light.

Now the final question – a bit off-topic. You have had a chance to travel a lot owing to your official position. Could you please share some interesting experience during your travels?

Klaus: It is interesting for me to learn, for example in the Prague meetings, that the countries of Central and Eastern Europe are wider than Austria in terms of realistic regulation of gambling. Unthinkable, for example, that official representatives of the Austrian Ministry of Finance would sit down with operators and ask: what can we do better? Our regulator always knows everything better on its own, even a public corporation like the Chamber of Commerce is only partially heard. Fascinating for me is in my travels, in what a short time Europe has grown together. You can really feel European today, and I do it with all my heart. I still experienced customs borders, the Berlin Wall, the Iron Curtain – an hour’s drive from Vienna. How far away is that today! And that’s good.

Niji has been in the writing industry for well over a decade or so. He prides himself as one of the few survivors left in the world who have actually mastered the impossible art of copy editing. Niji graduated in Physics and obtained his Master’s degree in Communication and Journalism. He has always interested in sports writing and travel writing. He has written for numerous websites and his in-depth analytical articles top sports magazines like Cricket Today and Sports Today. Besides reporting industry headlines from all around the globe, Niji is also head of the content management team at Impressions Content Management, based in Kerala, India, which offers writing and editing services to clients around the world.

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Central Europe

Microgaming makes its debut in the Czech Republic

George Miller

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Microgaming makes its debut in the Czech Republic
Reading Time: 2 minutes

 

Microgaming’s celebrated content has gone live in the Czech Republic, with a range of the leading software supplier’s most popular games now available through Tipsport, with more operators to follow in due course.

Microgaming’s entrance into the Czech Republic continues a well-executed strategy of expansion into key regulated markets around the world, following successful entries into Colombia, Bulgaria and Denmark in 2018, and Sweden at the beginning of the current year.

Devised specifically for the Czech Republic market, a tailored software solution will offer customers of Tipsport, one of the country’s leading operators, access to an extensive selection of titles from Microgaming’s innovative, diverse portfolio of premium casino games, with more content to be added in the near future.

“We are excited to be extending our offering into the regulated market of the Czech Republic. Tipsport are a major operator in the region, and a leader in the European sports betting industry as a whole. We are delighted to begin a partnership with them that will provide their customers with an expanding library of our best online slot gaming content.” – said Andrew Clucas, Chief Operating Officer at Microgaming.

“With the addition of Microgaming’s exceptional casino titles, we look forward to seeing players enjoy a wealth of thoroughly entertaining gaming experiences. Our partnership with Microgaming signals our commitment to diversifying our product offering, providing players in the Czech Republic with access to the largest and most diverse online gaming portfolio in the industry.” – concluded Jiří Švarc, Director of Online Casino at Tipsport.

 

For more information about the Czech market market make sure you don’t miss the 2019 edition of Prague Gaming Summit, which has the aim to give a quality report on the activity of the industry in the Czech Republic and neighboring countries such as Slovakia, Poland and a special DACH regional panel discussion.

 

About Microgaming:

Microgaming developed the first true online casino in 1994. It has been breaking records, breaking new ground and breaking its back in pursuit of original gaming ever since. Developer of thousands of unique, genre-defining casino, mobile, poker, bingo, land-based and multiplayer games, and a pioneer in virtual and wearable gaming, the software giant hosts the world’s largest progressive jackpot network. Its products include Live Dealer, Sportsbook, Business Solutions and Quickfire. Microgaming is an award winner. A millionaire maker. The father of player protection and responsible gaming. And through Microgaming PlayItForward, it is a pillar of its local community on the Isle of Man.

About Tipsport:

As the market leader, Tipsport is pushing the boundaries of sports betting, developing largest active online betting community in the region, with unique approach to its clients – encouraging them to share expertise, copy tickets and develop winning strategies. Established as a regional company in 1991 with just one branch, Tipsport quickly became an international holding company and the leading bookmaker in Central and Eastern Europe. With turnover of over EUR 2bln/year, the group currently employs more than 3,000 people at Tipsport and Chance in the Czech Republic and Tipsport in Slovakia. As the overwhelming majority of bets are placed online, the company’s main focus is technology. Thanks to its unique in-house solutions, Tipsport is now the No.1 sports betting operator in the Czech Republic and one of the major players in Europe. Recently, the company has firmly established itself also in the field of online casino games, now its fastest growing segment.

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Central Europe

3 Countries That Once Banned Online Casinos But Brought Them Back

George Miller

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3 Countries That Once Banned Online Casinos But Brought Them Back
Photo Source: flickr.com
Reading Time: 2 minutes

 

Online casinos have experienced great success around the world ever since the industry first began to bloom in the late 1990s, but some countries have been hesitant to allow online gambling. For a variety of reasons, many governments have restricted the use of online casinos throughout the last two decades. Fortunately, many of these countries have started to embrace the opportunity, fun, and freedom that the iGaming industry can provide, with some of these citizens now being some of the online casino world’s biggest fans!

Slovakia

The most recent change in online casino legislation comes from Slovakia, where iGaming is set to become more popular than ever. Back in 2005, laws were set in place to ban over 200 online casino platforms, including some of the world’s largest brands. However, as of 2019, online casinos in Slovakia are overseen by the state-run TIPOS national lottery organisation, who are planning to relax the laws and give the industry a great boost. Already casino comparison sites are listing which online casinos are regulated and available in Slovakia, as well as what they each have to offer (for more info, visit casino-online-sk.com). The re-introduction of online casinos in Slovakia will hopefully begin in March when the ban on many other off-shore platforms will hopefully be lifted.

Denmark

While Slovakia has the TIPOS, Denmark is home to the Danske Spil (you can read more about the company at Bloomberg.com). Before 2012, laws regarding gambling and online casinos were generally considered overly restrictive and didn’t really allow for grey areas and ambiguity. Thankfully, on January 2012, these laws were revised, and ever since then online casinos have been able to flourish far more easily throughout Denmark. The transition was so successful that even now other countries such as Ukraine that are rethinking their restriction on the iGaming industry are using it as the prime example. After all, Denmark’s success shows that countries can relax their gambling laws without things getting completely out of hand.

Romania

One such country is Romania, another European state that upheld overly strict rules when it came to online casinos. It wasn’t until the end of 2014 that the Romanian government relaxed these restrictions. The decision to do this has allowed the online casino industry in Romania to grow to incredible levels, with the country receiving a good chunk of the sector’s income.

Some countries, including Brazil, Australia, and India, are still struggling with how to deal with online casino regulations. Some pick and choose which forms of gambling are legal, while others are even more inconsistent, picking specific sites to support while outlawing others. Still, we must remember that iGaming is still a relatively young industry, and over time it’s likely that many countries will follow in the footsteps of the countries we’ve explored here.

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Central Europe

The Current Casino Legislation in Slovakia and What Will Change in 2019

George Miller

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The Current Casino Legislation in Slovakia and What Will Change in 2019
Photo Source: flickr.com
Reading Time: 2 minutes

 

Here at European Gaming, we like to keep on top of all the latest news when it comes to gambling laws in European countries. After all, there are plenty of changes happening on an almost weekly basis, with a surprising number of revisions coming from none other than Slovakia.

A Brief History of Gambling In Slovakia

Alongside a number of countries once part of the Soviet Union, Slovakia had upheld laws regulating and banning gambling for a number of decades. However, in 1992, this law was revised and allowed Slovakian online casino fans to play at iGaming platforms as long as they operated within the country.

Over the next twenty years, these sites became increasingly popular, particularly those that provided online poker. There were even a number of Slovakian poker players who managed to become millionaires, including top Slovakian player Jan Bendik, who is thought to have raked in over $3.4 million.

Unfortunately, Slovakia’s government went off gambling again in 2017 and blacklisted a number of big iGaming brands, as well as introducing fines of up to €500,000 for anyone breaking the rules. Since these were recently implemented, the result of these fines is unclear, but it seems as though even the Slovakian parliament wasn’t happy with the decision.

The Turn-Around

Back in December, Slovakia’s parliament surprisingly drafted a brand-new gambling act, which would again transform gambling’s role in the country. The act, drafted by the Ministry of Finance, stated that off-shore online casinos can now operate within Slovakia as long as they buy betting and casino licenses. Each of these licenses will cost €3 million and last up to ten years, though the amount will be brought down to €5 million if a brand applies for both.

This new act will hopefully be put in place by March 1, 2019, though there will be some regulations upheld until June 1, 2019. Already it’s clear that operators and fans alike are ready for the new regulations to pass, with casino comparison sites offering all sorts of info from everything you need to know about free spins to which sites are the best overall for Slovakian players. Meanwhile, off-shore sites looking to operate within Slovakia will have to wait to apply on or after March 1, with licenses coming into effect from July.

Looking to the Future

Gambling has been a tricky subject throughout Europe for a long time, but countries that have already relaxed their previously strict online casino laws are experiencing great success. Denmark, for instance, is perhaps the world’s leading example when it comes to changing strict gambling laws. Romania, too, has an incredibly impressive gambling industry that now garners a significant income for the country since their new act in 2014.

Hopefully, after the new gambling act passes in a few months, Slovakia can also enjoy the online gambling world to the fullest.

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