Today, as I write these lines, I notice that, somehow, the gambling activities, alongside with HORECA are the ones blamed for the spread of the virus that has drastically limited our lifestyle for a while.
Given that the general situation in the whole business is deteriorating, we expected the gambling industry to be affected as well, but the actions of our governors seem to be just a ”hide and seek” game. It is unimaginable how easily the Committees and Commissions decide to close, open or temporarily or permanently suspend the activity of gambling operators. Without any responsibility, they impose restrictions, one after another, without relying on medical or sociological studies to justify the decisions taken, only at the proposal of any member of the respective commissions, with or without knowledge.
You should know that I am not one of those who believe in the “conspiracy theory“, I try to explain myself the current situation in terms of the facts, actions and times, but the last months have led me to ask serious questions about the ability of those in power to solve the current problems of the country. If in the past the problem was that some or others plagiarized either their bachelor’s thesis, or the master’s or doctorate, it can be seen that now we have reached another stage. There are people who have cheated their baccalaureate diplomas, bachelor’s degree, etc., and they came to management positions in state institutions, for a long time, without anyone or anything bothering them. This along with the general rule that applies, that is, “the right man in the right place” – no connection to reality. People who had no education in the field were appointed and began a long and difficult process of “training at work“, resulting in normative acts that even those who drafted do not understand, contrary decisions and judgements – in short, “chaos” that has become a general state.
But this is life! We are moving forward, and we are waiting for better times. Each of us hopes for a better tomorrow, we will see what will come.
I dare in this document to ask some questions, in vain, because until this hour, neither I nor most of those involved in the gambling industry in Romania, have not identified or received an answer.
The first question is “why, for almost a year (since October 2019) it is no longer possible to open accounts with Romanian banks for gambling operators?”. I received all kinds of answers: “that it is not true and they can be opened” – I tried several times to do this, but the refusal was unanimous from all banks in our country “it is not possible!”. Either there is a high risk considering the activity carried out, or the bank account is not required and it can be paid cash directly to the treasury, a lot of such answers, some written (well drafted), others just informal answers transmitted by e-mail, on the telephone or “face to face“. The “great risk of money laundering” hanging over the gambling industry only in Romania was most often discussed. Banks operating in Romania and coming from the European or international market work without problems with gambling operators in other states, only in our country it seems not to be okay.
The honorable bank may be right, if we consider the answers given by the National Office for Preventing and Combating Money Laundering, under the signature of the President, who answer the specific questions asked by lawyers or operators: “a foreign legal entity that provides gambling services (remotely, NOT in Romania) does not have the quality of reporting entity, under Law 129/2019″. The “night of the mind” is the only thing that crossed my mind, without offending. Please note that I used quotation marks, and between them I provided quotes from such an address.
On the other hand, I’m sick of this battle of the operators with a license class 2. Some are trying to take over the market and others are trying to survive. Unfortunately, the state authorities, which had regulatory obligations, are also involved in this war. I’m talking here about the famous technical standard entitled “Minimum technical conditions for verification“, notified at one time to the European Commission, and not yet published, but also about identifying solutions to allow gambling authorization (whether we are talking about voluntary authorization or EU Member States bodies authorization). Conformity assessment bodies also suffered during this period due to unclear and interpretable legislative regulations. Either the CVTs are automatically extended for a period of time (during the alert state), or the checks must be made (during the state of emergency – when these aspects have been forgotten by the regulator), or, if you submit an authorization file, the older ones are or not taken into account and so on. At this moment there is a conflict, triggered by interests higher than those of the Romanian state, which the Romanian Accreditation Association must manage carefully, otherwise it will block the market of services offered to gambling operators and will only allow the operation of conformity assessment bodies outside the country or accredited abroad.
On the other hand, the October 25 deadline frightens all traditional gambling operators – it is the date on which “dues” must be paid. Everyone is waiting for an Ordinance that doesn’t seem to want to appear anymore. Today, the debt to the budget exceeds 16 billion lei, and the state decision to postpone the payments in order to allow the economy to recover was a good thing, but there are still some problems for gaming operators. The payment of authorization and license fees is a real challenge for accountants, because, during March-October, there were total operating bans, temporary suspensions (such as an imposed program – closed between 23.00 and 06.00, or localities/counties that suspended the entire activity for certain periods), limitations on the number of means of play that could be operated (30% of the space or 50% of the space – both in the case of dedicated casino floors or betting agencies, etc.). All this must receive a clear answer from the O.N.J.N. and A.N.A.F., to clearly establish the amounts to be paid by licensed operators. Gambling is the industry that pays taxes in advance, but it must be taken into account that their activity has been severely affected, and the taxes that will be paid must be reduced, depending on the number of means of play that have been used and their period of operation. It is unfair, illegal and uncompetitive to charge the traditional gambling industry, the authorization fee (or vice fee) for a full means of gambling, under the above conditions, or the full payment of these fees for casinos or poker clubs, given that they were limited in number of players, operating hours and so on.
There are still a lot of questions to ask: Will the O.N.J.N. be reorganized or not? Why? and How? What happens if the game operators do not have the money to pay all their taxes? Their licenses will be suspended? During the period when a city (Bucharest or another) or a county is under locked down, how long will the technically unemployed workers receive unemployment insurance benefits? The gaming industry will be exempted, as before, from the granting of financial aid? The gambling operators cannot apply for the SME Invest Program, where the state guarantees up to 90% of the working capital loan value and they are not eligible for financial aid for rents payment and other expenses, etc.
In conclusion, the gambling industry is an important contributor to the state budget, and the authorities must look very carefully and offer similar solutions for this branch too, otherwise, they will face big “gaps” in budget, insolvent companies, a mass of unemployed people and a thriving parallel industry that will exploit all kinds of gambling illegally. I do not think that, after the establishment of the ONJN in 2013, the decision-makers are willing to destabilize everything that has been done so far. The decisions of our leaders must be clear in order to allow industry operation and to help overcoming these problems, not to make it even more difficult or to allow the introduction of refereeing and unfair competition in this market.