Austrian Ministry Reportedly Prepares Online Casino Tender Under Monopoly System

February 29, 2024
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Austria’s Ministry of Finance is preparing to launch a new tender for online casino licensing under current regulation, because negotiations for new gambling laws have failed, according to Die Presse newspaper.
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Austria’s Ministry of Finance is preparing to launch a new tender for online casino licensing under current regulation, because negotiations for new gambling laws have failed, according to Die Presse newspaper.

If nothing changes, the move would guarantee the continuance of the current monopoly online casino system, in which Casinos Austria’s win2day has a monopoly.

There is also a monopoly for lottery, as well as for 12 land-based casinos.

Austria’s online casino monopoly has had far-reaching consequences, as online casino operators have been forced to pay out millions of euros in refunds to losing players following a 2021 ruling by the Austrian Supreme Court. 

The ruling said that contracts with online providers of games of chance who do not have a licence are invalid, thus opening the door for claims in civil court.

The deluge of lawsuits led to Malta’s passing of a controversial bill designed to shield its licensees from foreign judgments that it says conflict with Maltese law. 

The Austrian finance ministry is preparing to launch the tender process even though current gambling licences do not expire till September 2027, as it needs 45 months for the procedure, including deadlines for objections to judicial bodies, according to the newspaper.

In contrast, sports-betting licences are issued by Austrian states, not the federal government.

The lack of federal gambling reform comes because government coalition partners, the Greens and the Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP), have been unable to agree on the size of slot stakes, with the Greens opting for drastically lower levels, according to Die Presse.

Offering an online gambling tender under the same conditions as 15 years ago "may no longer be the best solution,” said Thomas Forstner, secretary general of the Austrian Association for Betting and Gambling (OVWG).

“We are optimistic that as time goes on, the benefits of a re-regulated market in Austria will become apparent to Austrian politics, as this is the status quo all over Europe already and bears many benefits regarding player protection, anti-money laundering processes, as well as drying out the black market for gambling”, he said.

The OVWG has argued that win2day’s market share is so low, perhaps 35 percent to 40 percent, that Austria is “de facto an unregulated market”.

Pressure to change has come not only from the online gambling industry, which would like to see online casinos opened for licensing, but also from the perceived conflict of interest within the finance ministry itself.

The finance ministry not only regulates but also owns a minority share of Casinos Austria.

Also, Casinos Austria is no longer Austrian-controlled, as it is majority-owned by Allwyn International, which is based in the Czech Republic.

The Ministry of Finance press office did not respond to multiple emails asking for comment.

A spokesman for Casinos Austria said only that there is so far no information about exactly when a tender will launch.

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