The gambling industry is changing – it is more mature today than it was yesterday, and the development directions possible.

This is the conclusion of an extremely interesting discussion with the representatives of ROMBET – the Association of Gaming Organizers. About the three main sectors where steps forward were taken – online games, responsible gaming and the industry transparency, about the bold projects, but also about how the gambling world is seen by a PR specialist communicating on its behalf, next.

THE ONLINE GAMES: THE FIRST LEGAL SITES

Recently, the legal changes have created their first effects: we have the first companies who got the right to organize and exploit online gambling. Two of the organizers paid the so called back tax before they received the green light from the regulatory body in this field – Romanian National Gambling Office – ONJN. “These are just the first licensed operators of a list that, we hope, is just at its beginning. And it was expected to be so, all the foreign partners we talked to, all the international companies’ representatives we met at different international events brought up this subject of changing the Romanian law on authorization and legalization of the online sector. We have the chance to become a positive example for the online gambling regulation way in Europe, we just have to make everything extremely fair and be very open. I am happy to finally see things moving in this direction”, says Dan Ghiță, president of ROMBET. All the issued licenses are, for the time being, temporary ones. The industry is still waiting for the implementation norms for the approved legal changes. Once the implementation norms are in force as well, the Romanian National Gambling Office will be able to issue the definitive licenses as well, for a ten year period, as stipulated by the law now.

On the other hand, the National Gambling Office as published a list of gambling sites operating illegally in Romania. “The condition for these companies to be removed from the black list is for them to pay the tax required by the law from the companies operating online gambling activities before the approval of this new law. The date from which the due sums will be calculated is December 26th 2010, when some changes for the online gambling activities Government Urgency Ordinance no. 77/2009 were published in the Romanian Official Journal”, adds Mr. Anchidim Zăgrean, vice-president of ROMBET.

RESPONSIBLE GAMBLING: AMBITIOUS PLANS
Besides the online gambling sector, which, as we can see, is becoming more and more active, the responsible gambling also “benefits” from the recent changes in the Romanian specific legislation and is waiting for the move from just talk – meaning the legal frame – to facts – meaning actions. The Foundation and the Fund stipulated in the new legislation should soon turn into reality. “I believe that the first steps should be taken in the direction of informing the public, especially young people, about the risks in the gambling area, so that those who want to take part in such games are aware of the risks and make informed choices. It is then necessary to have the games organizers better informed about the importance of having effective programs of the responsible gambling type. But, perhaps most important of all, we must find the best and most effective ways to reach those who need help and their families. We have a lot of work to do and I am confident that we are going to face and fight a lot of prejudice, but we can build something solid and very special. We can change mindsets and even destinies with some wisely implemented programs”, believes Dan Iliovici, executive director of ROMBET, the association expert on Responsible Gambling.

GAMBLING: A PR AGENCY’S PERSPECTIVE
Beyond the concrete things, on paper, there are things we don’t see that are changing as well – such as the perception of the gambling industry. Rareș Petrișor, general director of the Media Pozitiv PR agency, which started on the transparency road alongside ROMBET, told us about their experience so far. An honest confession, an extremely useful lesson for all those in the industry.

“The challenge
For a communication and public relations team to tackle the field of gambling and to try and change a certain perception that knows some obvious limitations is an approach that has to do with crisis communication. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the gambling industry is going through a crisis itself, but, as long as the public opinion and even some of the public institutions look at this activity from crooked angles, it is obvious that we are dealing with a problem, and its only known data is: “people thinks we are the mafia, and the state is convinced that we are guilty of tax evasions”.
This being so, our agency, Media Pozitiv, together with ROMBET, have launched a long and laborious process of changing the perception on gambling.

Establishing the terms of reference
There is the opinion according to which, in their turn, the PR specialists are professionals in … “altering” some truths, in negative and/or positive manipulation. Few people know that the PR industry works based on some deontological codes which “tax” very harshly any campaign distorting the truth… It is enough to “make a mistake” once! The market will remember you, the customers will remember you and it is very likely that you soon run out of business. Public relations use a context, some given terms or conditions intelligently in order to make a connection between two parties interested in each other – in our case, the general public and the gambling industry – and to “grease” the mechanism of their communication.
When we began our collaboration, our colleagues from the ROMBET association painted a rather dark image of the way the gambling industry looked: we left our first meeting with the idea that things can be changed, but that it takes a set of priorities to work on from “the inside”, in the professional agencies and with their members, in the state agencies, in any type of dialogue between the representatives of the industry and the other “players”, either active or passive, interested by the faith of this economic branch, important to the state budget .

And here is what we established:
– Communication between the employees, companies, customers, associates in the industry and the state institutions must be done on the same tone of the voice, because they all have the same interest: developing this field. An aggressive, hostile attitude is bad for the industry on the long term and inhibits any effort to produce a change in the perception of the general public opinion;
– The industry must know, accept and publicly discuss the problems in this area. No such communication crisis, which affects an entire economic sector, has ever been solved by avoiding the truth. We need vigorous, sincere and impartial voices which can both listen to the industry and can talk about it to the same extent. The industry must talk about itself more than ever;
– The public opinion changes their perception when the industry becomes 100% transparent. It is said that an industry is “legitimate” when it meets a few conditions: when it has a school, a statute acknowledged by law and powerful professional associations. The Gambling industry has it all. All is left is for it to learn, after some practice, to use them right, in its own and in the public’s interest. Because we all know that that’s where the client is, after all.

The steps we took together
We have tried and hopefully managed, throughout this period, to talk to as many opinion leaders, journalists, stakeholders as possible. We promoted the valuable people in this industry in the specialty and general media. We sent tens of news, information, and press releases about the common activity of the companies which are willing to step forward and discuss any problem openly, anytime with anyone. We mediated meetings between politicians and our customers in the gambling industry: normal meetings in any healthy and transparent business environment. And already things have started going in the right direction, as it is only normal. The media and the public opinion are informed. The journalists write about the gambling industry responsibly. The officials treated the drafting and approving of the new law with maximum responsibility and professionalism, a law which, among other improvements, set the basis for legalizing the online gambling in Romania.
The challenges don’t stop here, we have only started out. But the first signs are encouraging ones, even if just for the fact that we managed to contribute to the distribution of relevant, fundamental information about the gambling industry in the mass media

The international dimension of communicating about the industry
I especially left this very important chapter at the end. With the support of ROMBET, the Media Pozitiv team managed to take part in several national and international events in this field, from Entertainment Arena Expo in Bucharest to Ice Totally Gaming in London. Besides the extremely interesting experiences we had at these important events, there is one idea that stands out in all of them: the Romanian industry and professionals in the gambling industry are very well seen abroad. A whole world is waiting for transparency, self-motivation, limitation of negative, self-destructive information, most of the time spred right from the inside of the industry, in order to invest in one of the most attractive markets in the emerging economies.
Yes. This is the real, authentic and profound image of the Romanian gambling industry, for which I congratulate you and which I invite you to promote together with us both inside and outside our country, seven days a week!”

So, the year 2015 promises to change the face of Romanian gambling – or at least to mark the start of a great change. We are looking forward to the moment of a new discussion with the ROMBET experts for a general evaluation full of achievements!

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