Recently, I was a guest on a TV show where I discussed some of the controversial issues that have impacted the gambling industry in recent times. It’s a good thing that we got rid of a regulation that proposed to tax gambling winnings at 40% for what exceeds 1,000 lei, when the following announcement appeared on the skyline:
The legislative proposal to amend Government Emergency Ordinance no.77/2009 on the organization and operation of gambling (B760/2022), was registered at the Senate for debate on 22 November 2022, being initiated by several USR MPs, including Dan Barna, Silviu Dehelean, Seidler Cristian, Ungureanu Emanuel Dumitru, Wiener Adrian. It is therefore proposed to amend Article 15, paragraph (2), letter c) of GEO 77/2009, in the sense that, in order to obtain the authorization to operate games of chance, economic operators must prove their capital: “the proposed space is not located within 300 meters of an educational establishment, including its campuses, children’s playgrounds, cultural, health, social, religious and other similar establishments, or within the perimeter of the area designated for them; it is forbidden to conduct gambling in places which, due to their location, would obstruct traffic or limit free access to other places of interest (entrances to buildings, pedestrian walkways, public transport stops, etc.); exceptionally, gambling is allowed in cinemas, concert halls, sports halls, houses of culture and other similar buildings, provided that the following conditions are met: separate access for players, so that other activities are not disturbed in any way and that access for minors can be totally restricted”. A children’s playground is any enclosed or open-air space intended for use by children. The initiators have requested an urgent debate on the initiative. The Senate is the first chamber to be consulted.
Undoubtedly, the initiators, the parliamentary opposition, as they say, finished with all the current business and moved on to regulating gambling in our country. The proposed amendment, at first glance, has only one purpose – to remove traditional gambling from towns and villages. It is obvious that the opposition representatives have not been and are not as vehement about the big chain stores that have invaded Romania’s cities (not on the outskirts as they are allowed in European cities), the lack of parking spaces, the huge pollution, the fact that the citizens have no hot water and heat, the lack of medicines in pharmacies and hospitals and so on.
The legislative initiative does not take into account several aspects, namely the fact that at the moment there is a legal provision which does not allow the operation of specialised premises unless the conditions laid down in the article to be amended are met. Why 300 m? why not 500 m? or 2 km? How will it be measured? from the corner of the building? from the center of the building? who will take the measurement? ONJN, will it also specialize in cadastre and topography? There are a lot of questions, to which we look forward to an answer from the initiators.
Then, it should be borne in mind that such a provision also impacts the activity of the National Lottery, which has 1,000 of its own locations where it operates and another 1,000 locations of lottery trustees. The problem is that the Lottery has had its own premises for many years (since Ceaușescu’s time), and with the evolution of the cities, all kinds of locations such as schools, churches and the like have certainly appeared within 300 meters. Do the initiators take this into account? Or are they going to put on hold the business from which the Romanian state collects considerable sums directly to the budget…?
Another problem they didn’t take into account refers to the fact that the legislation obliges the ONJN to authorize only certain categories of specialized locations (casinos, of which there are about 3 in Bucharest, and poker clubs, which are very few throughout the country). Do the initiators have any idea how many people the ONJN would need to employ to make licensing trips around the country. Perhaps it would also be good to consult with those who manage this area to get a better understanding of the specifics of this activity.
What happens to the locations that exist, for which contracts have been signed for long periods of time, for which taxes are paid to local budgets, and which will probably disappear overnight if such a legislative initiative passes the National Parliament. Maybe the initiators want empty commercial spaces to appear in the centers of big cities or where poverty is sold (those shops that sell any product for 10 lei), how will they compensate for the money that will no longer be collected by local budgets and especially what will happen to the workforce that will be made redundant? Have the initiators answered all these questions? Or they have just proposed, as is their habit, to close down the traditional gambling industry without putting anything in place and thus create a huge deficit in the State Budget (over a billion euros), and to force loans to cover the huge hole they will cause with this stupid initiative.
Such a regulation must have behind it some studies to analyze, to evaluate what the benefits are, what the state and society have to gain and what the losses could be. However, taking into account the way it is formulated, there is certainly no good reason, but only a populist motivation, to raise some electoral capital against a background of discontent of a part of society. We believe that the August changes are harsh enough and that their effects will not be long in coming (companies going out of business, employees being laid off, etc.) and the disappearance of many specialised sites, so the legislative initiative is late and pointless.
In view of the approaching Winter Holidays, allow me to conclude this article with the hope that the coming New Year will bring stability and normality in the industry, health and peace to all, good thoughts and hope for better! Thank you to the Casino Inside team, Mr. Dan Bernovici and Mr. Marius Răileanu, for allowing me to be close to you, the Romanian gambling industry, to express my views, opinions and opinions without censorship, and I wish you a happy holiday with your loved ones!