Sorin Georgescu (ROMSLOT): When politicians compete in “solving” issues for gambling and we don’t have consensus

Monday, 20 November 2023

Gambling is a state monopoly, and we, the gambling operators, are licensed to carry out this activity according to the conditions of the law. However, the legal framework in recent years is no longer sufficient and causes aggressively negative reactions from society, directly proportional to the aggressiveness of the presence and offerings in major cities. Naturally, society’s attitude, amplified by virality, extends to the political class on the eve of the election campaign.

Sorin Georgescu

“The issue of gambling must be solved,” this is what we’ve been hearing for over a year from the political class. We see that each party comes up with increasingly extreme “solutions,” from the total ban on advertising to relocating gambling venues outside the localities.

Regardless of the perspective, it’s certain that we’ve been “promoted” from a problem to a calamity. When, how, and why did we get here? Each of us should answer this individually. When did we start making compromises, when did we start causing disturbance, being too visible, too accessible, and too widespread—these are questions to which we ourselves must respond.

For the Romanian Government and Parliament, amending the legislative framework for the functioning of gambling has become a priority.

This has led us to have new restrictions and financial obligations, with the approval of Emergency Ordinance no. 82/2023, which came into effect on October 6, when it was published in the Official Gazette. Consequently, alongside the banks, carbonated drinks, and major companies, the industry faced tax increases and additional guarantees.

For slot-machine gambling, the new taxes represent an excessively burdensome load, given the decline in revenues and increased costs. The licensing fee has reached 150,000 euros and must be paid annually, no later than 10 days before the license expiration. The authorization fee has risen to 5,300 euros per machine, the guarantee fund has also increased, and in 2025, it is set to be 1,000,000 euros, regardless of the business turnover. Slot-machine operators also have to pay an additional fee per machine as a contribution to the fund against gambling addiction. The value of this fee due in January 2024 is 300 euros per machine, which will increase to 500 euros per machine by 2025. In essence, compared to 2019, the taxes have increased by more than 50%.

With around 80,000 authorized machines at present, by 2025, due to these measures, we will experience a decrease of approximately 30%.

But the state’s interest in gambling hasn’t stopped at this ordinance, which, beyond financial increases, also comes with other obligations, such as the prohibition of alcohol consumption and restrictions on street advertising, as well as the introduction of a register of undesirable persons.

How do we know that we’ve become a priority for the Romanian state? Judging by the number of legislative projects filed in the Romanian Parliament, over 15 such projects are in various stages in the Chamber of Deputies and/or the Senate. It seems that more will continue to emerge.

The Senate recently voted on the bill, PL-x 495, initiated by the President of the Chamber of Deputies, Alfred Simonis. This bill proposes the relocation of gambling venues to the outskirts of localities, allowing gambling venues to be situated at a maximum of 50 meters from the territorial limits of the locality. The project also stipulates that the gambling operating license should be granted based on the population size, allowing for a maximum of one venue for every 20,000 residents.

Currently, the project is in the Chamber of Deputies, but it has reached with even stricter amendments, proposing that gambling venues be entirely prohibited in localities with less than 15,000 residents.

We don’t know where the legislative proposals targeting us will stop, but it’s evident that it won’t stop here, as politicians, both from opposition and in power, are competing in amendments to restrict our activity as much as possible.

During this time, what priorities do we have? If we manage to survive the new financial obligations, if we withstand new taxes, levies, and guarantees, what do we have left to do? How can we avoid being “a problem” anymore? If each of us puts on the table all the things we can give up, if we argue about them, if we take a step back and understand that having seven gambling locations on the same street, side by side, might become a problem, perhaps then the solutions would come from us and would be easier to bear. Our future is diminished by maintaining or increasing the number of gambling locations.



Author: Editor

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