FEDBET, in its first year of activity. Changing perceptions, a shared mission

Wednesday, 3 January 2024

by Vlad Soare, FEDBET chairman

During 2023, the first year of its activity, FEDBET-Federația Organizatorilor de Jocuri de Noroc din România (Federation of Romanian Gambling Organizers) has played a key role in representing and protecting operators in the industry against countless legislative threats.

We have focused almost all our activity on positioning the Federation as a dialogue partner of the authorities in all the restrictive projects drafted by the Parliament. Through sustained efforts and constructive approaches, FEDBET’s main missions have been to defend the interests of its members and to promote a change of attitude, of operators, and a positive change of public perception of the industry.

The general perception of the gambling industry in Romania has, unfairly for a well-regulated market, an image “handicap”. The industry recognises that its visibility needs to be reduced because excessive visibility generates distorted perceptions, which is why, together with the authorities, we are actively participating in changing the regulatory framework.

Of course, what must not be overlooked in all this discussion is that regulation must be underpinned by scientific studies and not by perceptions and emotion. Neither industry, nor the public, nor parliamentarians are in a position to discuss the subject of addiction without research. If there is a problem with gambling addiction, then the solutions must be found there, not just in the regulation and over-regulation of a perfectly legal business.

Involvement, communication and renewed trust

But where the industry clearly needs to act is in addressing its key vulnerabilities: minors, visibility and accountability. And for that, a paradigm shift is needed more than ever. We can move to a proactive stance, where we try to change the perception of the industry – an industry that adjusts and self-regulates. Our efforts need to be increasingly inward looking – through increased accountability, regulatory compliance, social engagement of organisers and self-regulation. In a reactive stance, we will always be in a position to react to challenges that are issued by the political class and/or society.

The main question is: is there a willingness on the part of the industry to start changing our positioning and build something for future challenges, whatever their source, or do we just stand by and react in hasty…?


Reducing visibility, a “must” on the industry agenda

Visibility must be reduced. Mistakes have been made, the law has been pushed to the limit. One of the mistakes the industry made was to give the impression that we are everywhere. On the other hand, we also have a mistake that the state has made. Every year we have a legislative change, usually through tax increases. In 2014, we had the vice tax, in addition to specific taxes. It raised about 400 million euros. Nothing was done with this money. In 2018, a contribution for responsible gambling was introduced, which managed to raise €7 million for ONJN, with a special purpose, to create prevention and education programmes. Not one euro was spent.

FEDBET campaigned for control and increased control capacity. We actively supported the increase in the contribution for responsible gambling and now it has been increased 100 times. This is a huge effort for the industry and will result in the collection of 50-60 million euros per year. Of this money, the victims is still us. Because it has been decided that 70% will go to the State and 30% will stay with the Office. And if this money is not spent, we will be the ones who will be pointed at. By increasing the control capacity of ONJN and the proactive attitude of the industry I believe that in a year’s time things will be substantially different.

We are facing a zero moment where the industry must propose, in unison, self-regulation, harmonisation of the relationship with society and, last but not least, taking measures with a positive impact on society.

We have a lot of work to do to change the perception of public opinion, politicians and governments about our economic activity.

The year 2024 is shaping up to be a year of change, including electoral change, so only together, united, communicating with each other and getting involved in our associations can we renew confidence in this area of activity.

From a broad perspective, disconnected from the realities of the moment, we should decide whether to remain in a defensive position or consider that being proactive is more effective, useful and in line with the real way we want to position the gambling industry.

Author: Editor

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