The Austrian Ministry of Finance is working “at full speed” on a draft of a delayed set of proposed changes to gambling law, a ministry spokesman has said.
The ministry is working with independent experts and “we are confident that we will soon be able to submit a draft law to the parliament”, said ministry spokesman Rupert Reif.
Reif told VIXIO GamblingCompliance that he was unable to supply more details until the draft has been produced.
Last March, previous finance minister Gernot Blümel promised to create an independent gambling regulator by January 1, 2022.
It would have had one of five supervisory board members focused on player protection, using Switzerland’s Federal Gaming Board as a model.
The previous government was embroiled in scandal and Blümel resigned in December, having been replaced by Magnus Brunner.
Due to frequent changes in government, “it’s not easy to predict what will happen”, said Thomas Forstner, secretary general of the Austrian Betting and Gaming Association (OVWG).
He was speaking at the online-based European Gaming Q1 Meetup on Tuesday (February 15), organised by the Romania-based Hipther Agency.
Forstner noted that proposals last March had included not only an independent gambling commission, but also for a nationwide gambling self-exclusion list, website blocking, restrictions on loot boxes, video lottery terminal changes and a plan to cancel three unused land-based casino licences.
“We are still waiting for legal regulation of the Austrian market,” he said.
“It’s a situation not satisfactory for the Republic, not satisfactory for the taxpayer, not satisfactory for the companies,” Forstner said.
The OVWG and others have previously argued that the ministry has an obvious conflict of interest, as both the regulator of gambling and owner of a one-third share of Casinos Austria.
The company is majority-owned by Sazka Group, which is part of Allwyn Entertainment.
On January 1, 2021, some of the responsibilities for regulating gambling, including granting licences, were moved to the Austrian Tax Office, but others remained with the finance ministry.
Last month, the OVWG asked the European Commission to examine Austrian gambling laws, which give a casino monopoly to Casinos Austria and Austrian Lotteries.
The trade group’s complaint claims that Austrian courts have failed to follow European law on freedom of trade and improperly restricted the right of companies registered in other European Union jurisdictions.
In response, Casinos Austria dismissed the group’s complaint as a “PR measure”, invoking well-worn arguments which have been unsuccessful in the past.
The Austrian Supreme Court has said that player contracts with online casino companies are invalid, which has led to more than 1,500 lawsuits demanding refunds for losses.
In October, Frankfurt-listed Bet-at-Home said it was withdrawing from the Austrian online casino market due to the player lawsuits.