Interview with Dan Alexandru Ghiță, Honorary President of the Association of Gaming Organizers – Rombet.
1. The vision of the Rombet association is to create a gambling market “more professional and closer to the European variants, a transparency like this field has never known in Romania” – quote from the association’s website. What is your perception currently regarding gambling activity in Romania?
Adopted almost 10 years ago, with some subsequent modifications, Romania has a gambling legislation that was considered an example of good practice at the European level. Of course, it is not perfect, and now, after a decade of practice, some modifications and adaptations are necessary, as is normal, especially as a result of the evolution of technology, the emergence of new types of activities/games, on the border between gaming and gambling and some problems identified in the current legislation, according to the evolution and needs of the market.
Gambling takes place predominantly in the area of technology and as technology is constantly changing, it is normal for the legislation to be adapted according to changes and evolution.
But we can say that we have a mature market, with correct operators, which provide more than 40,000 jobs directly, and which contribute significantly to the state budget.
Unfortunately, as is the case in other states, some legislative initiatives with a deep populist character may appear around some electoral years.
Without having research and scientific data as a basis, without any study of social and budgetary impact, hoping to quickly capture the attention of the public, the initiators of this kind of proposals are probably thinking of some votes obtained on an emotional background synthesized by the deep-rooted belief that gambling is the worst thing that can be in a society. Hard to fight an irrational belief like this. Difficult to come up with socio-economic proposals, with proposals for coherent public policies, which would ensure a sustainable development of the country. Gambling must be removed from this area of taboo subject and it must be understood that the industry is part of any modern society and that any legislative initiative taken to the extreme will certainly do more harm than good, the black market will certainly flourish.
2. To what extent do you consider that the legislation in the field of gambling includes the fulfillment of the principles and objectives of gambling in relation to the real needs of gambling organizers?
As I said before, the legislation is perfectable due to the continuous changes in the industry. This is necessary, and the dialogue between the authorities, game producers and operators, specialists, representatives of players and civil society is the only way to come up with proposals to improve the legislation. We have good models in Europe, but also “not so” cases, such as the decision to ban gambling advertising, in the case of Italy. We have to learn from all of this. A ban, of any kind, only takes us to a dangerous area, let’s refer to the prohibition of alcohol in the USA, the period that proved to be one of the blackest in the country’s history in terms of the increase in criminality.
3. How do the fiscal legal relations manifest themselves in the organizers of gambling games in the offline and online environment?
Most of the legal and fiscal aspects are part of the gambling law, which is a special law, the regulations being thought that way due to the specifics of the field and at the same time for a better and more efficient collection of fees and taxes. Of course, things can be improved here as well depending on the evolution of the market, for example, de-bureaucratization and digitalization being an important element in relation to the taxpayer.
4. At the level of the European Union, the gambling activity is not regulated from the point of view of the normative framework. To what extent do you consider the existence of European regulations for the offline and online environment appropriate?
We have regulations at the national level in most European states, but we do not have a community normative framework. The reasons for the non-existence of this unitary framework are many, some related to the culture and national specifics of each state, to the country’s strategy, to fiscal interests (as in the case of Malta, for example), but as the discussions are going on in Brussels, I do not foresee that will reach an agreement in a medium or long time horizon, the differences between the member states are too great to be able to harmonize the legislation.
At most, recommendations can be given, in the few situations, where things are somehow similar. Even the legislation on anti money laundering could not be transposed uniformly in the field of gambling at the community level.
5. How does tax and gambling legislation affect licensed gambling operators?
Everyone, the entire economic environment wants fair and STABLE legislation. Coming up with changes that are not discussed with the business people directly involved – and it is about any field, not necessarily gambling – without impact studies, without even knowing the specifics of an industry, is the image of an elephant moving chaotically in a porcelain shop.
Maybe the initiators have good intentions, at least that’s what they say in the statement of reasons.
Put yourself in the shoes of any manager, from any field. What business plans can you make when you have the sword of Damocles over your head, when the legislature threatens to drastically limit the areas in which you can carry out your activity, to ban advertising, not to mention the overnight increase in taxes. All this under the conditions in which you obtained an operator’s license for a period of ten years, under certain conditions and with certain rules .
Changing the rules “during the game” seems to be a national sport.
6. What do you think is the perspective of gambling in Romania?
If some basic principles were respected, some clear rules of legislative technique, yes
the constitution would be the supreme law in the state, and if – as I mentioned – we had an honest, open, real dialogue between all the factors involved, the prospects would be good: we would have a fair, predictable regulated field, it would offer protection to players, individuals vulnerable, would emphasize education and prevention of gambling problems. We would also have a completely marginal black market, which would bring more money to the state budget.
Because let’s not forget, a legislation that emphasizes irrational restrictions, on “banning”, only leads to the migration of players to the black market area, with the reduction of state revenues and the lack of any protection for players.
7. Does the political factor influence the gambling market and in what way? Please specify how this influence is achieved.
In addition to what was said , the answer is categorically yes.
On the one hand, as I said above, the fact that the industry is always one of the favorite topics on the eve of elections being hit by all kinds of initiatives made as I described previously , we are also talking about how the management of the national office for gambling it is supported to fulfill its duties . Also we can talk about the way the presidents are elected and changed, most of the time not having time to implement the management program. Such a position must have continuity for the institution to perform.
8. At the end of the interview, we would like you to specify, what would be the changes to the normative framework in the field of gambling and the hopes of gambling organizers regarding the improvement of relations with decision-makers?
I mentioned the expectations of any economic operator, regardless of the activity sector: legislative stability, predictability, a balanced regulation. Dialogue with political decision-makers is essential.
The way forward is that of collaboration, dialogue.
The industry is always open to constructive dialogue with data and well-documented studies to create a clearer picture, in this context the most ‘healthy’ decisions can be made for all parts involved.
Read also the news from HERE.