Newly-published amendments to Czech gambling law would give authorities powers to go after the black market, require licensed operators to display an emergency “panic button” at all times and ban many forms of bonuses.
Proposed amendments published by the government on Friday (March 24) include plans to allow the Ministry of Finance, which regulates the sector, to go after not just unlicensed operators that target the Czech market but also those who simply accept players from the country.
Officials will also be able to blacklist any website that advertises illegal gambling, according to the draft law.
The plan to block access to websites that funnel players to offshore sites was described as “a huge help to us” by Jakub Kolomicenko, senior compliance officer at Kaizen Gaming, which recently launched in the Czech market.
When Czech residents enter “online gambling” into search engines there is no clear distinction between legal and illegal websites, said Kolomicenko, who was speaking on a panel at the Prague Gaming and Tech Summit on Wednesday (March 29).
“This is the biggest issue [for us]. Without even the intention by a player to engage with an illegal operator, we are losing the player [to the black market],” he said.
But the industry is not totally convinced the measures will be effective.
The Czech government will have difficulty extending its reach outside the EU, noted Vojtech Chloupek, a partner at Bird & Bird law firm in Prague.
“Many of these operators are based in Curaçao, the British Virgin Islands, etc,” he said.
“The current problem with blocking is that the operators are creating mirror websites … and the new regulation is not really going to help much with that,” he said.
Kolomicenko noted that the current draft amendments do not change the process by which websites are blocked. That allows offshore operators 15 days to appeal the decision, which could then be tied up in legal challenges for months.
Other major proposed changes include plans to require all operators to constantly display a “panic button” on screen while players are gambling, which will instantly connect them to a market-wide self-exclusion service.
The ministry also looks set to clamp down on bonuses, after its interpretation of the existing law ran into legal challenges.
“This new law gives the ministry more rights to come up with secondary legislation. The problem so far has been that the regulator has had lots of discretion in interpreting the law,” said Chloupek.
Secondary legislation to outlaw so-called “risky bonuses” is already planned, he added. The ban would effectively apply to all acquisition bonuses and bonuses offered when a player attempts to close their account, he said.
Bonuses would also only be available to players for 24 hours after they are initially offered, he said.
The draft would also allow for live dealer games for the first time in the Czech Republic. This, “at least, is a success story”, said Petr Kozák, a lawyer with IFGR.
“[Live dealer games] make a big impact on the product and channelisation,” said Kolomicenko.
The only wrinkle is that the games themselves will have to be streamed from existing casino premises within the Czech Republic, according to the current draft.