Romania Targets More Restrictions After 'Victory' Against Gambling Industry

April 11, 2024
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Romanian lawmakers have declared “victory” against the gambling industry after a law to approve a restrictive emergency ordinance, including prohibiting B2B suppliers from providing games to unlicensed operators and a ban on slot machine halls in towns with fewer than 15,000 people, was adopted on April 9.
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Romanian lawmakers have declared “victory” against the gambling industry after a law to approve a restrictive emergency ordinance, including prohibiting B2B suppliers from providing games to unlicensed operators and a ban on slot machine halls in towns with fewer than 15,000 people, was adopted on April 9.

The emergency ordinance approved by the law has been in force since October 6, 2023, according to Cosmina Simion, managing partner at Romanian law firm SIMION & BACIU.

“This governmental ordinance while in force still needs to be approved by the parliament. Parliament can approve it as such, approve it with amendments, or reject it, where in the latter case from that point onwards the ordinance ceases to produce effects. In the case at hand the parliament approved it with amendments and sent it for promulgation to the President of Romania,” Simion told Vixio GamblingCompliance. 

The final form of the draft law, which will come into effect ten days after its publication in the official gazette, had not been published at the time of writing.

However, a report was issued on April 10 by the joint commissions of the Chamber of Deputies providing some details of the changes, such as new requirements and fines for joint-venture operations.

Additionally, the National Office for Games of Chance (ONJN) will be required within 90 days of the emergency ordinance (i.e. the one that entered into force on 6 October 2023) to clarify the activities that fall under joint operations.

“The wording from the draft bill is faulty here because it should have been stated/clarified that the 90-day deadline must be counted from the moment this new law will enter into force,” according to Simion.

The changes also prohibit B2B suppliers from providing services that target Romanians without a local licence, with new fines introduced for non-compliance. The 90-day deadline for the ONJN to clarify the details of these rules is similarly “poorly drafted”, according to Simion.

Clarifications on advertising restrictions, changes to the ONJN online register and new restrictions for land-based slots are also included.

Most notable is a requirement for any venue with slot machines to be in a locality with at least 15,000 people. 

The adoption of the law was overwhelmingly supported by lawmakers, with 243 voting in favor and four abstentions. There are a total of 330 seats in the chamber.

Alfred Simonis, acting president of the Chamber of Deputies, called the move “a first step, a first victory against the gambling industry, which in the next few days will have to close the gambling halls that are open in over 90 percent of the localities in Romania".

Simonis also pledged to introduce more gambling restrictions in the future.

Prime Minister Marcel Ciolacu said on social media after the changes were adopted: “Protecting people must be the priority, not some extra money brought to the budget obtained on the suffering of people.”

Some lawmakers who supported the changes publicly stated afterward that they did not go far enough, with some, such as National Liberal Party (PNL) deputy Adrian Cozma, calling for the introduction of an advertising ban. The NPL is the smaller of the two political parties that currently form the government coalition.

Next week, Cozma’s proposal to ban gambling advertising will be debated and voted on.

“This is the only way we can get rid of this serious disease of society,” Cozma said.

Simonis and Ciolacu’s public condemnation of the gambling industry reflects a larger political shift of opinion in Romania over the past few years.

Speaking at the ICE gambling conference in February 2024, Dan Iliovici, vice president of trade group Rombet, warned that political parties were vying to be seen as supporting more restrictive measures, in particular for land-based gambling. 

More recently, Alina Tace, a managing associate at SIMION & BACIU, said at the Prague Gaming & TECH Summit in March 2024 that “the past year has been stormy” for the gambling industry.

Tace warned that the country is likely to approve advertising restrictions; however, she does not believe the government will go as far as banning gambling advertising “because the money comes first when it comes to the Romanian government”.

Despite the increasingly hostile political environment toward gambling, the lawyer said “things will get better” and claims many B2B and B2C businesses are staying in the market despite the challenges.

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