The present and future plague, materialized in the pandemic of COVID 19 that seems to haunt the planet in waves, to which will be added soon the climate change preached by specialists (which have already begun to make its presence felt), has left its mark, with or without our will and on the national land based gambling industry.
The last period of time was, for the traditional gambling industry, a great attempt, in progress and at this moment, if we consider the pandemic situation, which seems to have become endless. As soon as wave four ends and preparations are made for the fifth one and pressure is put on the vaccination of all the population (sick, elderly, young, children), given that society and even the medical world, is in turn disturbed by controversy, opinions and measures which seem to be taken from a SF movie script. Not to be misunderstood, I am for the vaccination. I agree with this option, being vaccinated myself, but I think that we need a solution that does not force vaccination, especially those who have diseases that are incompatible with the vaccine (and there are a lot of people in this situation), or other well-founded reasons, and to determine people who are undecided or still unconvinced, that the vaccine is probably the best solution available at this time to protect loved ones, the elderly or the sick.
Along with the licensed operators of the first class, for the operation of slot machines, which were either completely closed, or partially operated (program required), or 50% and now only 30% vaccinated, specialized companies which carries out the activity of technical control of the means of play are also affected. How are Class II licensed Conformity Assessment Bodies affected? Well, according to the legal provisions in force, the authorizations for the operation of slot machines are automatically extended during the alert state (subject to the payment of the authorization fee), but also the technical verification certificates, which means that periodic technical inspections (which were annual) are no longer carried out, the CABs’ activity being limited to post-intervention inspections and initial and periodic technical inspections for a very small number of gambling equipment (only those newly introduced on the market or those for which a new authorization has been requested).
As it is well known, in our country ONJN licensed second class for CABs seven companies, of which four are Romanian companies. In fact, only five licensed companies were active in the profile market, until September 29, when the Supervisory Committee of the ONJN ordered the suspension of the activity for three of the specialized companies, on the grounds that they did not hold an “ISO 17020 or ISO 17025 accreditation certificate in the field of gambling”.
A brief introduction in the field of licensing for CABs, would start in 2015, and a year later, with the emergence of the implementing rules of GEO 77/2009 (transposed by GD 111/2016), which allowed the removal of the monopoly held by ROLM, and the emergence of specialized private companies to carry out the four ways to perform technical control over the means of gambling in our country, which consist of: type-approvals, initial technical inspections, periodic technical inspections and technical inspections after repairs. Because in the discussions of the Advisory Board of ONJN, from that date, it was expressly requested the possibility to carry out these types of activities by specialized companies, as a result of the dissatisfaction generated by the way ROLM handled the issue (no longer we recall here the many and great problems raised by the associations of organizers), the management of the ONJN at that time, took note and proposed a general regulation, which would then be supplemented by an Order of the President of the ONJN (in order to avoid the difficult endorsement procedure would have been done by Decision or by Ordinance given by the Government). In this sense, the GEO 77/2009 introduced in art.19 the possibility of exercising the technical control by ROLM or CABs [at paragraph (1)], and at paragraph (4) it was established: “The minimum technical verification conditions used by the Romanian Office of Legal Metrology and by the conformity assessment bodies shall be established by order of the President of the O.N.J.N. ”. In order not to allow the emergence of “apartment” companies that endanger this sensitive market (it must be borne in mind that technical checks are a way to protect players against possible abuses of some organizers, but also of operators licensed against fraud of all kinds by players), the management of the ONJN at that time established by GD 111/2016, a minimum condition that must be met in order to receive a second class license for the CABs, respectively that of holding ISO 17020 or 17025. We specify that this solution was adopted following the discussions, at that time, with the representatives of ROLM and RENAR, following that by Order of the President of the ONJN to establish the criteria based on which the CABs is accredited in the field of gambling by issuing a Scheme of accreditation by RENAR, which must be endorsed by ONJN.
Said and done, starting with 2016, ONJN licensed, as we mentioned seven companies for the specific activity of CABs, but, until 2021, failed to issue the Order to allow the emergence of the Accreditation Scheme in the field of gambling. The ISO conditions provided in GD 111/2016, were and are still valid, as evidenced by the list of documents that must be submitted to obtain a class II license (provided in Annex 6b) point VIII sub-clause 6 of GD 111/2016 ], and on the basis of which the license for the CABs can still be obtained without having to hold ISO 17025 or 17020 in the field of gambling, because even at this time the Accreditation Scheme is not published. The issue of Order 404/2021, was delayed, by the obligation to be notified to the European Commission, because the normative act contains technical regulations [according to the provisions of art. 4 paragraph (1) point 6 of GD no. 1.016/2004, transposing Directive (EU) 2015/1535 into national law], and the notification procedure requires a waiting period of 3 months until implementation. Once the Order was published (it was published in January 2021), after previously being discussed several times in the Advisory Board of the ONJN, the observations submitted to the EC were integrated, the Accreditation Scheme was developed by RENAR. In the meantime, an amendment of Order 404/2021 appeared, through Order 86/2021, in July, introducing, inter alia, the obligation of the CABs to be “accredited in accordance with Regulation (EC) No 765/2008, according to the ISO 17020 and/or ISO 17025 standards for the activities of assessing the conformity of the gaming equipment they perform”, which means in other words that specialized companies must hold ISO 17020 and/or ISO 17025 in the specific regulated field of gambling – a fact impossible to achieve so far, for the following reasons:
- There was no Order of the President of the ONJN to allow the issue of the Accreditation Scheme (it was issued in January);
- The Accreditation Scheme has not been published so far by RENAR (it should be noted that it was submitted to the ONJN for approval in July, but has not yet been approved);
- It was not possible to accredit the CABs in other EU Member States because RENAR did not issue the necessary denial to be able to accredit a Romanian CABs in another country;
- A term of compliance with the new established rules was not granted, a term that must be at least 2 years, because the accreditation procedure before RENAR lasts between 9 months and one year, from the moment the Accreditation Schemes are published;
Shocking for the gambling industry in our country was the unprecedented decision taken by the Supervisory Committee of the ONJN on September 29 this year, by which three of the five CABs were shut down due to the fact that “they did not have gambling accreditation”. It is interesting the way in which this unprecedented measure was analyzed and ordered until that date, given the fact that all five CABs, in fact and in law have the same legal situation, respectively do not have the accreditation for gambling, from the reasons mentioned above, or have some kind of accreditation, which is either not valid in Romania (as certified by European Accreditation by official address), or was obtained without the necessary denial from RENAR. These issues have been discussed in the ONJN Advisory Council in the past, but the situation has remained unchanged so far.
Such a measure to close the three CABs has caused a great deal of trouble in the specific national market, overlapping with the pandemic situation, which has affected the entire traditional gambling industry, by the restrictions imposed by the emergency and alert situations that have lasted for more than a year and a half, creating panic among the employees of the three companies (which together covered over 50% of the specific market at national level) and were to be made unavailable in winter threshold. Over the problems of unprecedented price increases in utilities (gas and electricity prices have reached incredible levels), followed by chain price increases for all products and services, The prospect of the three CABs, which were instantly left without any order from gambling operators, was bleak, which led to the reaction of these specialized companies that felt on their own, as by a deliberate administrative decision the business was destroyed. In this sense, it was proceeded according to the legal provisions in the field of administrative litigation, being submitted prior complaints to the ONJN, followed by actions to suspend the Decisions given by the Supervisory Committee, so that after the legal term of 30 days to initiate actions to annul the Decisions.
After submitting the argument, the Supervisory Committee of the ONJN ordered on 15.11.a.c., the revocation of the Decisions and thus allowed the resumption of the activity of the CABs, the problem not being nearly resolved, because a series of questions arose such as:
- Did the three companies comply and still comply with the legal conditions to carry out the activity in the field of technical control of gaming equipment?
Yes, insofar as GD 111/2016 provides only the possession of ISO 17020 or ISO 17025, and these companies have submitted the documentation and obtained the class II license for CABs from ONJN, and when it will be published in Romania, the Accreditation scheme in the regulated field of gambling, based on the granting of a compliance term, will submit the diligences and will obtain this accreditation from RENAR.
- Do the CABs that are licensed second class by the ONJN have the accreditation in the field of gambling for the activity carried out on the national territory?
At this time, the class II license granted by ONJN for CABs, is conditioned only by holding ISO 17020 or ISO 17025 (without being inserted in GD 111/2016, any other condition, for the reasons described in this article). None of the seven companies licensed in Romania has a valid accreditation in the field of gambling on the national territory, because until this date there is no Accreditation Scheme in the specific regulated field. Once this Scheme issued, it will allow accreditation by RENAR, under the conditions of the European regulation.
- How was it possible for the ONJN Supervisory Committee to suspend and then return to the decision?
Certainly there were some disagreements between the ONJN management and the members of the ONJN Supervisory Committee, and not all the conditions required by law to order such a measure were met. Regarding the training and specialization of the members of the Supervisory Committee of the ONJN, we consider that they are appointed by the ministries and authorities they represent, due to the knowledge they have and the skills necessary to participate in leading such a niche activity.
- Was there an interest in protecting the three companies that carry out specialized activities in the field of CABs?
We consider that there is no such interest, given the fact that the three companies have legally obtained the second class license from ONJN, have carried out technical verification activities since 2016 and until now, without being conditioned by the existence an accreditation that does not yet exist in the Romanian legislative landscape, they have provided the market with competition, which has led to lower prices for the services it provides and there have been no issues so far that could lead to the imposition of any sanctions from the ONJN or other authorities.
Given the legal prerogatives that ONJN has in the field of gambling on the national territory, we consider it useful to facilitate in the shortest time the emergence of the Accreditation Scheme in the field of gambling (specifically to endorse this scheme to allow RENAR to public), to grant a period of time in which the CABs to obtain the new accreditation (period to be transposed in Order 404/2021 and to allow the steps to obtain the accreditation from RENAR to be completed, and lasting at least 24 months, taking into account the legal deadlines) and to further ensure the existence of a competitive market that is beneficial for both slot machine gambling operators and players.
Because we are fast approaching the Winter Holidays, let me congratulate the editorial staff of Casino Inside for the equidistance it has shown over the years, and for the readers and contributors of the magazine to address their best thoughts, joy and health for the coming Christmas and New Year!