Friday, 21 May 2021

Professor Marius PANTEA PhD, Attorney-at-Law

Now, as I write these lines, I notice that the situation is going crazy. The spring wants to bring the sun closer to each of us, but something is different now. Could it really be a sign of old age or the overwhelming fatigue of the period we are going through for more than a year.

In these times when our concerns are directed to avoid the huge medical problem, which does not seem to want to stop, when we are surrounded by bad news and suffering people, when some of our peers seem unwilling to see the sacrifices of the medical staff or the efforts of others trying to follow the directions of epidemiologists, there were also abuses of the authorities in the “diligent” application of various restrictive rules, including the opening or operation of land based gambling.

In these turbulent times, all supervisory authorities, regardless of their training, make decisions on dedicated casino floors and betting agencies, meaning that the local police, gendarmerie and other authorities have been carrying out controls and imposing severe fines on licensed operators for various reasons.

An example can be Constanța County, where, for some time, the County Committee for Emergency Situations, has issued a series of Decisions declaring the entire county under “red” code, i.e. the threshold of 3/1000 (or, in some places, 4/1000 of inhabitants) has been exceeded, in compliance with the cumulative incidence limits at 14 days. Nothing new so far, but, the TAUs (Territorial Administrative Units – Municipalities of common cities and villages in this case), began to transpose through local regulations established by the “influential people in the county”. And, what do you know, if the TAU is below 3/1000, the game operators can operate in 30% of the space for some days, after which, if it has exceeded 3/1000, the local police arrive and asks you to close, and if you do not comply, it fines you with 5,000 or 10,000 lei. It no longer matters that the Decision has a validity of 14 days, if on the fourth day, for example, the incidence increased and a sanction was applied. If you try to establish a dialogue with the “supervisory authority” you are set up immediately “you do not like it… go to court”.

Some TAUs in Ilfov and Ialomița, for example, no longer have the patience to increase or decrease the incidence, they unequivocally establish, by local decision, that the activity of gambling operators is closed, even if the statistical data, the Government Decision and that of the County Committee for Emergency Situations show and say something else. And again, contravention sanctions are applied by the national or local police, which must, of course, be appealed in court.

In some counties, Brăila, for example, teams of “pedestrian gendarmes” have appeared and, citing the law, entered, threatened, left, and then send the fine by mail. They fine either the company or the employee who was well benched in advance, legitimize the players and order the closure of the means of play. In other words, they settle things. Nothing matters anymore, just the law enforcement. And we’re going to court again.

Well, if each authority interprets how it wants and applies what it wants, what is the purpose of GEO 77/2009 and its provision from art.15 paragraph (8) which says that: “The license for organizing and operating gambling allows the economic operator who obtained them to operate throughout Romania, without having to obtain authorizations, approvals, additional fees, permits or licenses from other authorities”. Is it possible for the above-mentioned provision to be cancelled by lower normative acts, Government Decision or Decisions of the TAU Committees for Emergency Situations?

Why was ONJN established in 2013? Not in order to have a single authority to manage the entire issue of gambling? What measures were taken by ONJN during this period? The authorities who have carried out controls of gambling locations have been informed that there is a specific, there are rules and they cannot order the closure of gambling facilities. Also, the authorization fees are paid in advance and any closure or opening must be announced at the Office.

It seems that “chaos” has slowly set in this area that, until yesterday, was very well regulated and controlled. Unfortunately, the operators, tired of waiting for the day when the business opens, upset that they are sanctioned for minor reasons, grumble when it comes time to pay in advance for permits, not knowing if they will be able to operate the means of play. They sigh when they ask questions to the authorities of all kinds, the answers do not come and in the end they look at the sky and wait for better times.

In other news, we welcome the appointment of the new President of the ONJN, and wish him good luck. It is auspicious that business consultations have resumed through the Advisory Board (more than a year after the last meeting). We know that each head of the institution must create his team with which he will put into practice the management of the institution and we fully agree with this situation. However, we do not understand the reasons why only a certain part of the gambling industry can be represented by an advisory body. We do not understand why it was necessary to amend an order regulating the functioning of the ONJN Advisory Council, which allowed the industry to propose and vote its members. Moreover, we do not understand what is the reason for reducing the number of members of this Council, as well as replacing some experts with others. Maybe the pandemic has diminished the level of expertise of some and increased it for others? Maybe only some opinions are allowed and others not?, or maybe the authority has decided to take sole responsibility for the future of the gambling industry in Romania?


The questions are rhetorical. It is important to listen to the opinion of the industry, to be able to identify solutions that will allow us to overcome this bad period and with the help of ONJN to be able to maintain a competitive market.





Author: Editor

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