Slovenia is set to offer international operators a pathway into its entire gambling market for the first time, as the government unveils plans to offer new concessions and abandon some of its restrictive licensing requirements.
Draft amendments to the Gambling Act were published by the government last week and are designed to bring the country more closely in line with the gambling laws of its fellow EU member states.
Slovenia currently only allows two companies — the Lottery of Slovenia (Loterija Slovenije) and Sports Lottery (Sportna Loterija) — to operate what it calls “classic games of chance”, meaning lottery, bingo and sports betting.
The proposed amendments will dramatically alter that dynamic, increasing the total number of licensees to five and awarding them via an open tender run three times a year. Authorisations will last for five years.
Currently, the government awards the two concessions without a public contest.
Licences for gambling in Slovenia allow companies to offer their services both land-based and online.
“The presence of new providers would potentially create a competitive environment in the market putting pressure on the Lottery of Slovenia and the Sports Lottery, which would have to adapt its current business model to the new market conditions,” said Gašper Hajdu, an associate with the Llubjana office of law firm CMS.
The two state-owned monopolies are expected to retain their respective licences, but will face a new era of competition from international operators if the amendments are approved.
“Nevertheless, the Lottery of Slovenia and the Sports Lottery would at least in the beginning have a considerable advantage, as it already has an established betting network in Slovenia and as the initial entry cost of the newcomers, which would have to establish their own network from scratch, would be rather high,” said Hajdu.
The draft amendments also hike the fee for a sports-betting licence to €500,000 and require operators to have share capital of at least €1m.
However, Hajdu said that the significant volume of grey market activity in Slovenia means that gamblers are already broadly aware of international brands and would likely adapt quickly if a foreign betting operator wins one of the available licences.
Concessions for “special games of chance”, which cover poker and casino table games, would also be awarded via a tender, according to the draft.
It would also remove an existing requirement that any company offering special games is physically based in Slovenia and that it be 100 percent owned by the state or local communities.
However, Hajdu noted: “The proposed amendment to the law stipulates that the direct or indirect state share may not be less than 25 percent plus one share in the case of a joint stock company and not less than 51 percent in the business share of another form of company.”
These changes in particular appear to have been motived by a need to bring Slovenia in line with EU free trade principles.
The draft law indicates that the European Commission has recently “reminded” Slovenia of various European legal rulings on restrictive gambling laws and emphasised the need for limits on the free market to be justified by public health and crime prevention concerns.