Welcome to EiG 2013 -
Last year we referenced the sense of deja vu in the preceding 12 month period and not surprisingly, the same themes and issues have dominated the online gambling industry since 2012.
The European multi-licence approach continues to gain momentum, but at the same time is proving increasingly unviable for a number of operators. In addition the stigma of chasing the grey and black markets (where a wide range of issues from gambling legality, anti-money laundering to local “facilitation payments” may not play out well in listed vehicles, or for those who are seeking absolution in the form of a U.S. licence) and the gloomy economic outlook generally, have combined to sap optimism as well as value.
New European licensing regimes coming fully into force this year include Bulgaria and Romania and those imminently in the pipeline include the Czech Republic, UK, Holland and Ireland. Clearly there has been much written about the disappointing “controlled closing” by the UK (having gone from being at the vanguard of the TFEU arguments to a position where those sentiments were deemed to be outweighed by the tax benefits). Despite this, TFEU arguments are still being brandished elsewhere (notably Germany and Greece) but ultimately these seem to focus now on the terms of a local licence, the tender process and tax position rather than whether it is in principle wrong to require “offshore” European operators to obtain local licences. In short, the TFEU arguments have been considerably diluted and funding the cost of challenge in marginal markets makes little commercial sense. EU “harmonisation” has been replaced with EU “co-operation”, with the latter focus being on co-ordinated enforcement. Operators having initiated a compliance model which required them to obtain a local licence or block the market, have been left with some unpalatable choices in the last 12 months.
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