Global Glance: Gambling Laws Stuck in Netherlands, Moving in Sweden
The weekly Global Glance looks at the online poker scene around the world. What happens with online poker and gambling beyond America’s borders can and often does impact the state of online poker in the United States.
For the second week in a row, there was nothing in the global poker news about progress for European shared liquidity. However, the news did continue flowing out of Europe regarding online poker and gaming issues in the Netherlands, Sweden, Bulgaria, Germany, and Spain. And PokerStars took a hit from the ASA in the UK for one of its ads that violated responsible gambling standards.
Dutch Lawmakers Crawl Toward Market Change
The past several weeks have seen numerous pleas from the Dutch Gaming Authority (KSA) for updated gaming laws. The regulator insists that new laws will allow it to better regulate the market, fight illegal operators, and structure the online gaming industry to be geared toward profit. The KSA and online gaming operators are all still operating under the antiquated 1964 gambling laws.
The new Remote Gaming Act has been in discussion among legislators for 12 years, since the European Commission first advised the Netherlands that it was necessary. That Remote Gaming Act was then drafted and passed by the Dutch House in 2016 and has been stalling in the Senate ever since.
Lawmakers continue to stand by the effective date of the new law as sometime in early 2019, but the Senate has yet to find enough agreement to pass a version of the new law. With only one year until projected implementation, the regulator, gaming operators, and other interested parties are growing more frustrated and worried.
— CasinoNewsDaily (@dailycasinonews) April 6, 2018
Sweden Delays Licensing, Still Moves Forward Significantly
The delay is only one month. Swedish Gambling Authority Lotteriinspektionen will now open its licensing window for online gaming regulator applications on August 1 instead of July 1. In the grand scheme, however, that slight delay will not affect the law’s anticipated effective date of January 1, 2019.
Meanwhile, the Swedish government pressed forward with an announcement on April 5 that it officially adopted the bill entitled “A Re-Regulated Gambling Market,” which has been submitted to the European Commission for approval. According to Minister for Public Administration Ardalan Shekarabi, “It is 14 years since the first of a line of gambling inquiries was appointed. It is now time for us to move from words to action and regain control of the Swedish gambling market.”
The basics of the bill require that any online gambling operators must have a proper license from Lotteriinspektionen to offer services to Swedish customers. Gambling operators will be taxed at 18%, and players will be taxed on money they win on unlicensed websites. The Swedish Gambling Authority will have more authority to enforce the rules and maintain control over the market. Proposals in the bill also include:
–Licensed operators must have a comprehensive plan for protecting customers from problem gambling.
–Operators must abide by strict requirements for marketing.
–Self-exclusion processes must be available to all customers.
–Bonuses must only be offered for first-time customers.
–Payment transactions to/from unlicensed operators may be blocked.
–Swedish Gambling Authority can order ISPs to show warnings about unlicensed websites.
–Criminal penalties can be imposed for unlicensed operators in the Swedish market.
— iGB (@iGamingBusiness) April 3, 2018
Is Bulgaria a Gambling Paradise?
The Sofia News Agency reported this week that Bulgaria is becoming a home for many gambling companies due to its tax breaks and welcoming environment for gambling businesses.
In 2017, operators based in Bulgaria collected approximately $1.9 billion in revenue, a number that has doubled in the past decade. And in the first nine months of 2017, those same operators only paid $90 million in taxes. The government also makes money from licensing fees assessed to non-Bulgarian remote operators.
The new regulations that were implemented in 2013 to regulate the market and draw operators to Bulgaria seem to have worked. A total of 1,327 gambling and betting companies are now registered in the country for land-based or remote gambling.
Germany Loses Gamblers
According to the German Head Office for Addiction Issues, gambling has decreased 12% over the past eight years, down to 75.3% in 2017 from 87.1% in 2009.
Conversely, the German government collected more revenue in 2016 than in 2015 by 8.7%. The 2016 amount came to €45.2 billion, and the 2006 Gaming Ordinance is credited with providing more gaming industry incentives.
These positive numbers may not reflect as well when considering the online gaming industry alone. Those regulations remain inconsistent, out of compliance with the broader European Union, and disillusioning to major companies like 888poker, which is reportedly considering leaving the German market altogether.
— Focus Gaming News (@FocusGamingNews) April 4, 2018
Spain Prepares to Gain Gaming Ground
Watch out, Bulgaria; Spain is coming for those happy gambling companies.
The Spanish government is currently considering a proposal to reduce taxes for sports betting and horse racing revenue. The Congress of Deputies maintains it will make the country more attractive to gambling companies, though much debate remains before it can become a law.
Further, the Spanish online gambling industry revenue came to $687 million in 2017, and many experts predict consistent growth in the market. And the burgeoning online poker shared liquidity market may play a role in that expansion as well.
ASA Stops PokerStars Ad in UK
The UK’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) does not discriminate when it comes to holding companies to high advertising standards with relation to the gambling industry. This time, it was PokerStars that felt the wrath of the regulator.
The kerfuffle began with a PokerStars ad featured the following statement:
“Here you are, the moment when bluffing is the only way to win, you’re freaking out kiddo, but think about all those times you bluffed yourself. Like the pull-up bar waiting for you to get back in shape, that book you’re definitely going to read, your parents never had sex. Use that talent because if you can bluff yourself, you can bluff anyone. PokerStars. You’re already a great poker player.”
The ASA received two complaints about the ad, accusing it of exploiting inexperienced poker players and making them believe they could win without experience. The ASA conducted a review and found that it portrayed gambling in a socially irresponsible manner, and PokerStars was ordered not to air the ad again going forward.
PokerStars responded by asserting that there was no financial reward associated with the bluffing suggestions and did not suggest that good bluffers could win a lot of money. “When the voice-over stated that bluffing was the only way to win it was only in reference to the hand that the player had and was not meant to relate to every hand in the game,” read a PokerStars response. However, PokerStars did comply with the order to stop playing the ad.