Interview with Liviu Popovici, President of Romanian Bookmakers, about the main priorities of the Romanian gambling industry, but also the dangers it will have to respond to this year
Liviu Popovici, President of Romanian Bookmakers, points out that the gambling industry, especially the landbased sector, is going through a delicate period due to the health crisis, the long and restrictive measures imposed and the lack of support from the authorities, which may pose a risk to the compliance of gambling organizers. “We risk entering an unwanted maze in which the lack of support from the authorities only alters the way many people in the market behave and which will later lead to an even greater even greater unwillingness for dialogue of those in this industry”.
What are the priorities of Romanian Bookmakers in 2022?
First of all, we want gambling organizers to stop having to go through the uncertainties caused by the closure of gambling locations again. Sufficient sanitary conditions have been established for the optimal development of the activity and consistent investment has been made to create a safe environment for customers. Up to this moment, there is no clear causal link between gambling activity and the increase in the number of illnesses. In addition, together with ROMSLOT and ROMBET, we launched the first campaign in the private sector to promote anti-Covid vaccination, we made substantial financial investments to support the restart of the economy’s engines and the results are already visible. We have companies where the vaccination rate of employees has exceeded 70%. In this regard, we will step up our efforts to ensure that future measures taken by the authorities are adapted to the needs of the market because we want to be treated in directly proportional to the actual epidemiological risk at the gambling locations. Secondly, we want to contribute intensely to the issuance of normative acts to improve the legislative framework applicable to this field. More specifically, the technical rules for monitoring systems and the elimination of the obligation to use fiscal cash registers. Another priority is to review specific legislation that must take into account market developments and trends, including from a responsible gambling perspective.
What are the main dangers that the Romanian gambling industry must face this year?
The main risks come from within the industry. Generated by the special situation in which we find ourselves, by the multitude of activity restrictions and with almost no understanding from the rulers regarding the taxes and fiscal obligations incumbent on the organizers. Which, of course, made me feel like I was in for a treat before the pandemic. I am referring to the intense efforts of the representative associations to increase compliance, social involvement and participation in the life of the community, to be slowly diluted and even to go back to that period. Why? Because there are companies that do not belong to groups that can be financed in one way or another, they have ended up in the situation of managing an extreme crisis situation, and in such cases compliance and CSR activities are put on hold. So we are at a turning point. That is why I believe that the main danger comes from within the industry.
How do you see the relationship with the authorities this year?
What we expect from the authorities is to take these risks into account and, although we know that they are under a lot of pressure during this period, precisely because of the health crisis, to understand that ignoring the problems in the industry only aggravates the negative reactions and effects. We risk entering an undesirable maze in which the lack of support only alters the behavior of many in the market and which will later lead to an even greater unwillingness of the authorities to talk to those in the industry. Most likely, the general perception of gambling will change a lot during this period. After all, I would say that I have some reservations, precisely because of this context, that we will be able to reach the necessary level of dialogue, both within the industry and with the relevant authorities to keep the situation on track.
How do you see the current legislation, from the perspective of gambling operators?
An important step was taken by issuing AML sector regulations. It was absolutely necessary, but it is not enough. The next step is the compliance that can be achieved with an effort, both by the authorities and the associations, to explain how to implement these provisions, which are not exactly easy and really contradict the status quo of the retail industry. An industry that was purely anonymized, with the customer remaining anonymous in the relationship with the game organizer. But it is an absolutely necessary step and that is why we need the contribution of the governing authority and all the associations to achieve the degree of compliance we want.
You are also the president of the Responsible Game Association. What are the most important goals for this year?
The Responsible Gambling Association is also at a turning point because the support received comes mainly from companies that have a predominantly landbased activity. The major challenge for the Responsible Gambling Association is to attract the support of the companies that are 100% online because there are projects that have shown their effectiveness and have a positive impact on society, but there are no funds for them. Fortunately, we have taken a few steps in the more intense involvement of the companies that operate exclusively online that have already materialized in partnerships, but we hope to discuss soon a commitment made by a large majority of this sector because the Association’s programs are, in fact, dedicated to the entire industry and its customers, whether they come from the landbased or the online environment. Another important point is the collaboration with ONJN to unblock that Gambling Addiction Prevention Fund so that we can finance such projects. We already have a dialogue with the Office, we also have openness from the management, these are some steps that must be taken from the perspective of the legal framework, but we are convinced that together we will succeed.
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