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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

Licensed online sports wagering thrives in Poland

Niji Ng

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Licensed online sports wagering thrives in Poland
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Poland’s Ministry of Finance has published its annual review of the country’s regulated gambling market for 2017. According to the report, the overall gambling turnover touched PLN12.9b (US$3.5b) in 2017, which marks an increase of 22 per cent compared to the turnover in 2016. The government’s tax increased by 17 per cent to PLN1.64b during the same period.

The Polish market remains dominated by casinos (PLN4.8b, +13 per cent) and lottery operations (PLN4.6b, +1.4 per cent), but sports betting stole the show, posting annual turnover of PLN3.4b, a year-on-year improvement of 105 per cent, which pushed betting’s share of the overall market from 15.7 per cent in 2016 to 26.4 per cent in 2017.

The betting boom was spurred in part by a 29 per cent rise in the number of retail betting outlets, but Poland’s newly regulated online betting market was the vertical’s prime mover.

The report did not break out specific numbers for online turnover, but you can derive a sense of the betting shift via the government’s tax figures. In 2016, the government’s share of betting activity was PLN196.6m, of which PLN88.1m came via the internet. In 2017, betting tax totalled PLN407.4m, of which PLN279.2m was generated online, a year-on-year gain of 217 per cent.

Polish legislators approved new online sports betting rules in late-2016, and the regulated market officially began life on 1 April 2017, prompting a flurry of market exits and the birth of a new blacklist of operators who failed to make an appropriately swift run for the border.

Last month, Poland’s government estimated that locally licensed operators’ share of the online betting market had risen to 40 per cent by the end of 2017, up from a mere 10 per cent prior to the imposition of the new regime. The government hopes rigorous enforcement of its domain- and payment-blocking tools will eventually push the domestic online share to 90 per cent.

 

Source: CalvinAyre

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Central Europe

Totalizator Sportowy seeks a testing partner for mobile app

Niji Ng

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Totalizator Sportowy seeks a testing partner for mobile app
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Totalizator Sportowy, which has announced the launch of an iLotto portal and mobile application, is looking for a company to test the mobile app.

The iLotto portal and mobile application will feature a number of games from the company, such as Lotto or Multi Multi. The intention is to increase the sales volume of these games. Customers will be able to purchase the games, register to create account in these games and manage their accounts from the portal and app.

The company is currently undergoing proceedings in which it wants to choose a company responsible for testing the iLotto portal and application. The tests are to be carried out in two stages – the first will be carried out before their official launch, and the second – after the launch.

The Totalizator will work with the selected company by the end of December this year, which means that the iLotto will be launched later this year.

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Central Europe

Superbet Polska to offer online betting in 2019

Niji Ng

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Superbet Polska to offer online betting in 2019
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Superbet Polska, which has been offering legalized sports betting in Poland for close to 9 months, has announced that it will launch its mobile and online betting facility in 2019.

Aleš Dobeš, CEO of Superbet Polska, said:  “We operate in accordance with an agreed and precise schedule, but time verifies plans and despite the full involvement of our developers in the IT projects, the dates declared had to change.” .

Work is still under way on an innovative platform that is to move the level of bets in Poland to a higher level.

“We want our services to be refined in every aspect and tailored to the very demanding Polish betting market. Intensive work on the online platform, which still requires testing, is underway. We want it to operate without any problems when it enters the market. It is only when we are sure that all issues related to entering the online market work perfectly, then we will submit relevant documents to the Ministry of Finance. We predict that it will be the fourth quarter of this year. “ – assures Dobeš.

It is a pity that the promised deadline could not be met, but we welcome the decision to postpone it in order to clarify all of them. We are waiting for the final product, which hopefully will provide Poles with many new emotions and experiences related to sports betting.

At the moment, Superbet has opened in Poland more than 50 stationary points, the standard of which is at a very high level, and work is still underway to raise the bar.

“In the meantime, we are increasing the standard of ground points, including the latest forms of communication with the client – additional screens that replace traditional posters. We plan to introduce a new format for presenting the betting offer that will revolutionize its current appearance and significantly facilitate betting. “ – adds Superbet Polska

The company’s vision is to provide customers with the best experience, listening to the opinions of their clients and responding to their expectations.

 

Source: e-playonline.com

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