Exprogame and AOPJNR send a message of confidence to the gambling sector after the difficult 2022 and welcome the fact that Mihai Pocora, the current president of ONJN, has re-established a real dialogue with the industry, one appreciated by Doru Gheorghiu, consultant of the two associations, as based on arguments and objectivity.
How do you assess the year 2022 as an evolution of the gambling sector in Romania?
We find ourselves at the end of a year with which we cannot associate too many positive landmarks. The Romanian gambling industry has been confronted with an avalanche of legislative initiatives that are restrictive or designed to complicate the companies’ commercial path. I refer first of all to the unprecedented increases in special taxes… Clearly, we cannot talk about 2022 as a year to remember in terms of auspicious aspects from an industry perspective.
Exprogame and AOPJNR were the only trade associations that chose to challenge the fee increases. You chose the route of an open letter to the Government. It was the first public initiative of its kind by the gambling sector.
When this idea was born, we did not really believe that we would be able to get the current government to reconsider the currently imposed level of taxes. Ordinance 15 had already been adopted on 15 July and previous experience shows that no government has ever adjusted taxes in a way that is favourable to the sector we represent. However, we have assessed that the industry must make its voice heard, given that the increases, i.e. the new tax rates, are actually exaggerated and not at all in line with the ability of the industry to sustain them. I issued that open letter only as a very useful exercise in bringing the industry together under a single, homogenous message to the public.
And how do you assess the outcome?
More than 100 companies responded “present” to the Exprogame and AOPJNR approach and signed the endorsements supporting that public manifesto. Our objective was to “wake up” companies that were not affiliated to any association, to give them a voice… And it was achieved beyond expectations. We will repeat such actions, as we have set a precedent which has shown that the slot machine sector is not exactly an amorphous and unresponsive mass and that it knows how to express its position and opposition when necessary. This sector just needed the necessary communication tools, and Exprogame and AOPJNR will continue to assume this mission, to represent the majority of traditional gaming licensees, whether they are our members or not.
“Exprogame and AOPJNR currently assume the responsibility of representing nearly 100 gaming companies. Following the adhesions signed by various slot machine organizers on the occasion of the open letter to the Government these companies are waiting for news and results from us, following dialogues with the government. I hope that we will also be able to offer them good news in 2023”.
Doru Gheorghiu, Exprogame and AOPJNR consultant
What do you expect the industry to face early next year?
The great news would be that, however, that open letter in which we publicly but reasoned and rationally criticised the manner of taxation as well as the level of tax increases has opened the way to communication with the Government. Exprogame and AOPJNR will most likely have the opportunity, by the end of February, to have a dialogue at government level, where we will be allowed to present our arguments and possibly put forward proposals for future adjustments to the taxation system applied to the sector. Then, there are still many regulatory initiatives at the draft stage to be confronted next year: the imposition of a distance from educational institutions for gambling venues, the implementing rules for the new obligations to collect personal data of persons entering the gambling hall, self-excluded and undesirable persons and others… The forthcoming debates at the level of the Budget, Finance and Banking Committee of the Chamber of Deputies on the draft law approving OG 15, the one that brought the tax increases, will also be very important. We believe that these proposals are reasonable and we have real hopes that they will be supported by the representatives of the ONJN and the Ministry of Public Finance.
Will the problem of the deadline for adapting the means of gaming imposed by the ONJN President’s Orders No. 404 and 86 be resolved in the way desired by Exprogame and AOPJNR? We know that it is already 3 years since you requested the review and the removal of the deadline. It expires in June 2023. There is not much time left for companies to adapt their gaming equipment or new purchases to meet the requirements of the new technical verification rules…
At the beginning of December, I had a fruitful debate on this subject with the current President of the ONJN, Mr Mihai-Silviu Pocora. It was by far the most objective and clear-cut dialogue we had with the ONJN leadership in the last 3 years on Orders 404 and 86. As companies are waiting more and more urgently for news on that 24-month deadline, which is due to expire next summer, we can now tell them that the current President of the ONJN assesses that the deadline should be extended. How it will be reformulated and what the new compliance deadline offered will be we have agreed that we will debate in the first part of 2023. But we have reason to be optimistic about a happy resolution to this unwarranted pressure on the slots sector.
Why didn’t you find the same resonance on this topic from previous Presidents of the Office?
Never mind. Things are now consummated and I choose to gloss over everything that has been talked about underground over the last few years. What is relevant at this point is that the current President has reopened the dialogue on an objective basis. We very much appreciate his position. He is emerging as the person the industry badly needs as a debating partner in the complicated times of the COVID-19 pandemic or immediately afterwards. On behalf of Exprogame and the AOPJNR, I must on this final day of the year commend him for the way he exercises his attributes and for the real openness with which he assesses and evaluates the arguments of the private sector. The frankness and objectivity with which he understands our role as a real partner in dialogue are values which, brought into the relationship between the authority and those who ensure the professional representation of the sector, will determine the balance, desired by both parties, in the regulation of the sector. In reply, we assure the current president of the ONJN that he will have in Exprogame and AOPJNR a real and objective vector of debate on the gambling industry. Finally, we feel partners, not opponents.
“Mr Pocora is the president that the ONJN needed in the last three years, so difficult and unpredictable for the industry. Exprogame and AOPJR appreciate the balance he brings to the dialogue with the private sector during this period, marked by the launch of various legislative initiatives that require attention and joint analysis.”
Doru Gheorghiu, Exprogame and AOPJNR consultant