Romania's Prime Minister Threatened Over Proposed Gambling Changes

October 4, 2023
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Romanian Prime Minister Marcel Ciolacu has pledged to move ahead with planned changes to the country’s gambling laws, despite claiming he has received threats from members of the gambling industry. 
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Romanian Prime Minister Marcel Ciolacu has pledged to move ahead with planned changes to the country’s gambling laws, despite claiming he has received threats from members of the gambling industry.

Ciolacu made a statement about the legal changes at the beginning of a government meeting on Monday (October 2), during the opening of the academic year at the University of Medicine and Pharmacy.

“I have no problem with the threats from the gambling industry, and on Thursday we will issue an emergency ordinance by which all operators will be obliged to have their tax headquarters in Romania," Ciolacu said.

The Prime Minister is convinced that “state authorities will shed light on how these intermediaries want to pressure certain politicians to make decisions in favor of this industry, as has happened in the past”.

Ciolacu went on to claim that during the COVID-19 pandemic, “the gambling mafia was at the government's table. Bakeries were open all over Romania, while churches and hospitals were closed.”

A stated aim of the Prime Minister’s proposed changes is to crack down on land-based venues that he claims are operated by this “gambling mafia”, in particular, providing examples of companies that are based in Romania but headquartered "through Transnistria".

Transnistria is a Russian-backed separatist region that is an unrecognised state and is internationally considered to be part of neighboring Moldova. 

In August, a change in legislation was floated in the form of an emergency government ordinance, which means it does not have to be submitted to parliament.

The draft ordinance proposes that licensees must be registered companies in Romania, as opposed to just having an authorised representative based in the country, as is currently the case. There are also a raft of proposed tax and fee changes.

Cristina Popescu, a partner at CMS, told Vixio GamblingCompliance that she did not expect all the provisions of the ordinance to be approved in their original wording.

“The requirement for online gambling operators to establish a Romanian-based company through which to carry out gambling operations in Romania appears to be particularly problematic and potentially in breach of fundamental EU principles, such as the freedom to provide services within the EU,” Popescu said.

Gambling industry sources in Romania, who do not want to be named as a result of the sensitive nature of the situation, have also told Vixio that they are concerned the proposal is in contradiction with EU laws, warning that the changes are being driven by "political and populist means".

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