For remote gambling operators that are licensed and authorized to offer online casino games, the procedure to extend the offer of games with other new software programs has proved to be from the beginning of the open online market rather difficult, implying a long process and causing in time various problematic aspects caused both by the lack of specific regulation and clarity of the existing provisions, and by an approach of the authority that has crystalized over time, without necessarily being uniform.
To begin with, the need to submit for the approval of the National Office for Gambling (NOG) the use of new software programs on the platforms operated by licensed organizers arises from a corroborated interpretation of a few legal texts, namely art. 15 para. (1) letter B item (iv) of GEO no. 77/2009 on the organization and operation of games of chance, together with art. 140 para. (3) of GD no. 111/2016 for the approval of the Methodological norms for the implementation of GEO no. 77/2009.
In essence, the above-mentioned legal texts provide in very general terms that any new software version used to carry out remote gambling must be previously approved by the NOG on the basis of the tests performed by a licensed laboratory, as well as the fact that any modification of the game rules shall be submitted for the approval of the Supervisory Committee of the NOG. Thus, there is no specific procedure provided by law that details the documentation which must be submitted in view of obtaining the approval of the authority and no exact standards or criteria regarding the aforementioned documents.
To exemplify this situation, we will refer in particular to the approach regarding the certification reports submitted by operators regarding new software programs, aspects which impacts both class 1 licensed gambling operators and companies that supply specialized software and that hold class 2 licenses issued by the NOG, companies which, in practice, certify their software products.
More precisely, in the absence of specific certification standards in Romania, the certification reports issued by the class 2 licensed certification laboratories relate to other standards recognized at European Union level.
The uncertainty here arises from the fact that, given the lack of legislative clarity, remote gambling operators have encountered situations where the documentation submitted at the NOG was randomly approved or respectively refused within the same type of procedure for the approval of new games.
In other cases, the class 2 licensed certification laboratory issued, together with the game certification reports issued for foreign jurisdictions, also a confirmation letter which attested the fact that, by reference to the tests already performed on the basis of regulations or standards existing in those foreign jurisdictions, the tested games observe also the requirements of the legislation in Romania. However, even in these situations, there was a different approach in the sense that, in certain cases, the certification reports together with the confirmation letter were accepted in the approval procedure, while in other cases the same type of documentation was not accepted.
It should be mentioned in this context that the provisions of the NOG President Order no. 93/2016 for the approval of compulsory provisions for certification and auditing of remote gambling systems sets forth in the very first article that the certification requirements from Annex 1 refer to ”gambling systems”, so not gambling programs/software.
Therefore, although, as we mentioned above, the general provisions of GEO no. 77/2009 speak of the fact that gambling software must be tested by a licensed laboratory and that remote gambling operators must submit certifications for gaming programs, there are no technical standards in force regulating the testing or certification processes for the remote gambling program. Moreover, since the provisions of NOG President Order no. 93/2016 refer strictly to the obligation of gambling operators to have their gambling system certified and not to the certification of these programs, it could be concluded that this process may be performed also in accordance with standards or regulations from another jurisdiction.
However, in the absence of clear legal provisions or instructions issued by the authority, there was no consistent approach regarding the gaming certifications required under the approval procedure with the NOG, although this is an essential aspect with implications both for suppliers of specialized software, certification laboratories, and especially remote gambling operators, in their process of launching new games that are increasingly more competitive and attractive for the gambling market in Romania.
In addition to the certification reports for new game programs, the regulatory authority requests other documents as well, some of which could be justified on the basis of certain segments of legislation – such as new game rules that must specify certain elements analyzed by the NOG and other documents whose necessity may be understood on a practical level, but that are not expressly provided by the law – for instance, supplying a list of new games intended to be offered on gambling platforms in a certain format requested by NOG. It is unequivocally the attribute of the regulatory authority to request information that is necessary in its supervisory and regulatory activity and to implement certain reporting formats. In our opinion, a standardization of processes is also welcome, as long as the necessary transparency and uniformity are ensured.
Therefore, in light of the above aspects, it is clear that an unequivocal legislative or infra-legislative regulation, in which the documentation, criteria and standards envisaged by the authority in the procedure for approving new games are expressly provided, would benefit both licensed gambling operators, as well as companies providing specialized software and class 2 license holders and, in general, to the entire gambling market in Romania.
Last but not least, given the overlapping of the game offer at the level of several operators, a system of approval of the games themselves, and subsequently the addition of those games already approved by new operators being subject to simplified procedures would make the procedures easier both for the operators but also at the level of the regulatory authority, where at this moment the effort of approvals multiplies unnecessarily for each operator who wants to improve its offer with the same game, already approved previously at the level of another operator.
We trust that the adoption of such regulation that will facilitate and clarify the practical aspects of today’s unpredictable procedures is only a matter of time, given its undoubted need for the development of the remote gambling market in Romania and the move to the next level.
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By formation, Cosmina is an intellectual property, regulatory and technology lawyer with more than 20 years of professional experience, with expertise in various industries, with an emphasis on the media and entertainment, online and gaming industries.
Prior to setting up Simion & Baciu, Cosmina was an intellectual property partner and co-head of the gambling, consumer and advertising practices at the largest and oldest law firm in Romania. She combines her strong advisory expertise acquired during her coordination roles in leading law firms with the specific approach built during her in-house role (at a US group, leader in the regional media sector). Throughout her career she coordinated teams of specialists in complex licensing procedures, acquisitions and tenders.
In the gaming field, Cosmina’s experience encompasses the full range of regulatory and operational gaming aspects for betting and gaming operators, software & platform suppliers, financial services providers, auditors & certifiers, industry relevant associations or marketing affiliates, including representing clients in front of the Romanian regulator and has been actively involved in the review and drafting of the Romanian gaming legal framework.
Recognized by clients for her broad media regulatory experience, Cosmina regularly contributes to domestic and international working groups seeking to improve the business and regulatory approaches in the industries she is active in. She is a regular contributor to specialized publications and lecturer on gaming, IP, social media and digital matters and is ranked as Leading Individual by Legal 500 in the Gaming Field and Recommended in Intellectual Property and TMT. She is also General Member of the International Masters of Gaming Law (“IMGL”), a not for profit association comprising over 340 members globally. Its members are recognized as the leading experts in their jurisdictions and are involved in most material gambling sector developments and issues worldwide.
Teodora handles a wide area of legal matters ranging from gaming matters, where she is assisting clients on regulatory and licensing issues, AML, privacy and consumer protection, to an array of legal issues of civil, commercial and advertising law nature, as well as representing clients in front of the relevant public Romanian authorities.
Teodora holds a double degree in Law and Foreign Languages from the University of Bucharest, being an attorney, member of the Bucharest Bar as well as a certified translator by the Ministry of Justice.