The Vice-president of the National Gambling Office gives an exclusive insight into the measures taken for a responsible and lucrative gambling in Romania, in an interview to Casino Life & Business Magazine, the first gambling publication in Romania
Nothing is perfect, but everything can be perfectible
The establishment of the Office has been an answer to the need for solving the issues in the gambling industry. In only six months, this Office has proved its efficiency, thanks to an active strategy of communication with the participants on the market and to the implementation of its fundamental principles.
Hello, Mr. Gabriel Gheorghe Gheorghe,
You are the Vice-president of the National Gambling Office. How do you see the current direction of the Romanian gambling?
We have been through a rather strenuous financial season. The economic downturn has put its mark on gambling, even though we initially thought that the gambling industry would be left untouched as clients would use gambling as a way out of their problems and to make some easy and quick money.
Similar to other fields, the lack of the economic stability has also been felt on the gambling market. A large number of operators had to discontinue their activity, the number of players has visibly decreased. And all these have led to an increase in the illegal gambling. And starting with this, it was just a matter of time until people started seeing gambling under a negative light. The red tape and unclear legislation are in this mix, too.
What exactly should the authorities improve and how should be done?
In full confidence, significant amendments must be made in the relevant legislation. To this purpose, we have consulted with representatives in the private sector and from other state institutions. I mention here the Internal Affairs Department via the Fraud Investigation Division, the Council of Competition, the National Office for Prevention and Control of money laundering, the Department of Communication and Information Society, the National Agency of Fiscal Administration and other authorities who are contributing to a stable and normal environment.
Every viewpoint is important for us and we examine each proposal thoroughly.
Many of the people involved in gambling complain about the vulnerability of the system, the passivity of the authorities towards this sector of the Romanian industry. What is your take on this?
We are more than aware of the system liability, the fuzzy legislation, the underground market, the unfair competition, which are truly major problems. This is why the establishment of the Office has been a response to the need to solve them – we proved it during the last six months – via an active strategy of communication with the market participants and the implementation of the very principles we comply with: legality, equity and availability that will allow us to reach our utmost objective – to build a fair and transparent environment for gambling.
How would the Office plan on stimulating the gambling sector?
The main directions that we will take are to bring to an end the regulations for the online gambling; to promote a responsible gaming; to protect the consumers and other vulnerable groups; to implement clear measures that will stop the illegal operators and the money laundering.
How do you keep in contact with the people in gambling, knowing that only teamwork will bring efficiency in any business? How often do you meet with the gaming operators, to have a better understanding of the problems that they encounter and help them with a legislation that will assist this industry?
For the best operation of the Office and for an efficient communication, the Governmental Emergency Ordinance 20/2013 has established the Advisory Board of Business People in gambling.
We, the Office management, have meetings with the members of this Board once a month or more frequently, if needed.
These discussions aim to keep us informed about the latest, the needs of the representatives and their concerns.
We have to manage a quite sensitive field. And for a high efficiency, we need to be aware that the dialogue is a must and the openness to the private sector can only bring benefits to all the people involved.
What is the greatest success of the Office in terms of legislation?
Even the establishment of the Office is a major achievement in this field. For the first time, the authorization, monitoring and control are carried out by only one institution in Romania.
This is a palpable proof that we are doing all efforts to comply with the European principles and standards and to avoid the typical bureaucracy.
What would be the legal flaws in Romania about gambling, compared to the abroad? What is the legal future of this industry, in your opinion?
People say ‘Nothing is perfect, but everything can be perfectible’.
The gambling market in Romania has faced more or less flawed interpretations of the law. The divergent opinions of the territorial competent bodies hindered the operators from building a set of rules to be implemented in their entire activity. This is why we want to trace a unifying line, with no room for interpretations.
Practically speaking, our priority number one is to regulate the online gambling. We have started consultations with specialists, examined the issues and tried to have an objective evaluation while evaluating the opportunity and utility of each of the perspectives.
We are also looking into the legislation of other states and are about to conclude a series of partnerships with other EU member states, for exchange of information and good practices.
We will do our best to identify best solutions to build a fair, balanced, responsible legal framework, which will be adjusted to the Romanian reality and the European principles.
Is the gambling sector lucrative for the state sector?
Yes, it is and can become even more profitable.
We need to be careful about how the underground market evolves. Its amplitude is an issue that needs to be handled very responsibly. The more illegal activities, the less money for the state.
The legal changes on our agenda intend to attract a as large as possible number of operators from the ‘underground’.
This is where I should mention about the control activity of the Office on the field. Efficiency has been proved in this direction, which we are planning to keep. To give you an example – during the last month, we have received a number of 12,000 applications for authorizing slot-machines, when the usual number for a month is 2-3,000. The difference is the result of the control activities that the Office had performed in the field. This is the number of the slot machines that have been taken out of operation from the black and gray market.
Do you consider it as equally profitable for the operators, as it should be normal?
As long as there is some balance and coherence between the reality itself, the taxation system, the promotion of the fair competition and the correct implementation of all the legal stipulations, the gambling industry can derive huge profits for all the parties involved.
This is actually the final destination we all want to reach – the state should collect its fees, the operators should run their business in a stable environment and the players be the beneficiaries of high quality services.
In other countries, the gambling industry enjoys the support and attention of the authorities, thanks to the fact that they understood its financial value. When do you see Romania in the same place?
We do fully understand ourselves the importance of the gambling industry and also the influence it exerts not only financially – it is an industry with a high turnover – but also socially. And this is why we focus so much on having efficient regulations that will stimulate the industry, not to fence it in. It is essential to deal with this topic responsibly. We consider that it is wiser to go with the ‘baby steps’ policy, to examine all the consequences before implementing a certain principle. We make comparison among the legislation of the other states, learn from the mistakes of other people and try to absorb the positive aspects and adjust them to our reality.
What are the actual measures that the Office is taking to avoid fiscal evasion in the gambling industry and help the people concerned as much as possible?
We have managed to have a young and dynamic team at the Office, who has a clear idea that perseverance, patience and reliability are needed to reach the desired objectives.
The underground market circulates a lot of money that is not taxed whatsoever. The field controls, the identification of the operators who are running unauthorized gambling activities, their sanctioning according to the law – these are the measures that we have taken and proved their efficiency.
To build a balanced legal framework and a fair taxing system, which allows a lucrative operation of the gambling activities, is a huge blow to the underground market and the risk the operators will face will not make any sense.
What are the actual measures that the Office is taking to change the perception of gambling in our country?
In Romania, gambling does not enjoy the best image. The general view upon gambling is the one of a world governed by fabulous and ambiguous winnings, made overnight. Image is essential and the operators need to invest in promotion campaigns. The public must understand that the gambling world is not only about luck, but it also involves vision, strategy and, last but not least, intelligence.
The promotion of a legal environment that will make a premise for a solid business context that will boost investments, promote the responsible gaming and the policies of preventing the gambling addiction in minors, consumers – these are the measures that we, as the state representatives, can take to support the gambling industry to have a better public image.
The first edition of ‘What’s the time…. in gambling’ took place in September. Next year, in March, the third edition of the Romanian Gambling Conference will be on – these are projects that our publication Casino Life & Business Magazine has initiated. Your Office was invited at the September event. What is your opinion on such events? Will you be a constant presence there?
The events that you have organized and promoted are of a large scale, which requires the presence of a high number of representatives from gambling. The topics have a great impact and are of a present interest, thus giving the advantage to get a better acquaintance of the people interested in our activity.
This is why we assure you that the entire management of the National Gambling Office will welcome any of your invitations to such events in the future.
Thank you and wish you good luck!