Up to date with the president of ONJN about the gambling industry in Romania.
➤ How was the Entertainment Arena Expo this year for you, for the National Office for Gambling?
After the editions of 2014, 2015 and 2016, E Arena Expo has become, for certain , the biggest event of the gambling industry in Central and Eastern Europe. Every year, the exhibition gathers more exhibitors, producers and distributors of gambling components and furniture for this domain, but also increasingly more visitors, this year only, the increase was by 12 percent. That means a lot, both for us as a country and for me that I represent the only regulator of this activity in Romania, especially since we have exhibitors from abroad who have made a habit of being present at this event, they have become “loyal”, so to speak. Moreover, over 17 percent is the increase of the number of exhibitors from other countries, in 2016 alone. So, this event is a milestone, international, awaited with interest by the leading operators in many countries, by exhibitors, opinion leaders and companies, and also by the regulators.
➤ The National Gambling Office has entered a new stage, that of stability, development, after the legislative changes. What news have been of interest to E-Arena Expo in 2016?
This fall, the temporary right of activity obtained in 2015 for online operators expires. So, they had a year to put in order all operating conditions. Starting with September, those who get license for 10 years will operate and they will have their security server on Romanian grounds and the mirror server also, including the ONJN terminal, where all the data collected by the two servers can be guarded. Moreover, those who get the right to operate in our country considering the new legislation can start to function. Even if they are fewer in number (the average in other European countries is more than 25 operators in each country, we currently have 10 ) they will gain safety, meaning a secure business environment, plus regulations that add fair play in terms of the game. Those who will not have fulfilled all legal requirements will not be able to operate in Romania, but those who remain on the market will gain through security and accountability they are able to offer to players. We are interested in the fact that on the Romanian market currently operate several global leaders, and the online segment of this market cumulates several hundred million euros and it’s in accelerated growth.
Therefore, the online market in Romania is an attractive business environment, a secure environment, with quality service. I’ve been working during the last two years, together with other authorities of the state, at the legislative changes, and I can tell you now, once completed, that we are stable and we brought predictability to this area, all the signals that we have received show these things. Large operators want to enter the market in Romania in accordance with the law and make all the necessary arrangements in this regard. They understood our motivation, as a regulator, and also realized the benefits they will have: a significant market, a tax system which is among the most convenient in Europe, and last, but not least, they benefit from a constant dialogue with state representatives, which guarantees the balance in the industry by continuously monitoring the market.
➤ What topics do you think are of interest for the operators and the exhibitors of such an event?
The market is booming, things began to settle down with the new legislative changes so that the subjects are alike. Innovation, technological development, research, the revenue the gambling brings, business opportunities and risks, case studies and specific regulations applied to them, all of them constitute topics of interest to those involved in the field. Referring to the event held during the E-Arena Expo 2016, in the second day of the fair, “The exact time in Gambling”, we must admit that it is one of our priorities as an institution, to find models followed by other countries, their experience, and we present Romanian particularities. Incidentally, all the legislative changes we made were the result of discussions with representatives of operators, after studying successful models from other countries that have a history in gambling. We are now at the moment when we can say with certainty that the gambling market in Romania is well organized, supervised, with an adequate level of protection for players, including the prevention of addiction to gambling, all of that while remaining attractive for investors.
Also, at the other event of the Entertainment Arena Expo, took place the social empowerment seminar “Responsible Gaming”, organized in partnership with the National Gambling Office. For everyone, including for us as an authority but also for operators and players, is a priority to show that this business is serious and responsible, and addiction or excessive practice of gambling must be fought by both sides, not just by the state. And I am referring to companies in the field, because without their help we can not identify these special cases. All the premises from the legal point of view are created in order for the operators to take all cautionary measures regarding minors, vulnerable persons and players, to prevent the gambling addiction.
➤ What are your expectations from the industry this fall? What about from now on?
As E-Arena Expo has exceeded expectations in 2016 compared to 2014 or 2015,so did the National Office of Gambling. Figures from the Ministry of Finance show that we have a market of interest, profitable for both budget and economic operators. And if we refer only to taxes, for example, in 2015 collected taxes reached 1.7 billion lei (about 380 million euros), and these amounts are exclusively from gambling taxes (traditional and online).If we add up the taxes from the salaries paid to the 40.000 employees in the field, meaning the taxes paid to social insurance, we reach the amount of more than 286 million lei, meaning another 63 million euros. But there is always room for improvement, as it is in every sector of activity.
Our interest is to bring the black market to the surface, to have a larger number of operators to obey the laws. Legislative changes, specialized verifications made by the National Office of Gambling, public education, all these and more are the appropriate methods to have a win-win situation – both the operators, through a safe and legal business and us as a state authority through charging of taxes under existing laws.
➤ How do you think E-Arena Expo will be in 2017?
If Entertainment Arena Expo 2016 was an exceptional event, at least from our point of view, the 2017 edition will be at least at the same level. It is for us, as well as for the other participants, a milestone in the calendar of far-reaching annual events which we participate at, it is the best opportunity to relate with players on the Romanian market, to find out updates, identify issues that maybe we did not know of. Therefore, it is with huge interest that we are waiting for the E-Arena Expo 2017, which will, be for sure, a great success.