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CMS Gambling Conference 2020: What does good regulation look like and how does regulation affect the market? A panel discussion with international regulators

Thursday, 06 February 2020

The panel demonstrated that whilst there are many differing approaches to gambling regulation across Europe, the aims of each jurisdiction are the same, namely to ensure safety and fairness for the public. 

Francesco Rodano, Chief Policy Officer at Playtech, moderated the discussion, and began by asking the panellists about what worked well in their jurisdiction to achieve this objective. Andrew Lyman, Executive Director of the Government of Gibraltar Gambling Division, explained that there is a great benefit to regulating a small jurisdiction simply because the regulator can work closely with operators and pick up on any prevalent issues more easily. Yanica Sant, Senior Counsel for Legal at the Malta Gaming Authority, explained that in Malta, having the detailed regulation of gambling set out in ‘Directives’, which are more agile than government legislation, allows the regulator to react quickly to a fast-moving industry.

In contrast, Trude Felde, Senior Adviser at the Norwegian Gaming Authority, said that as one of the few surviving gambling monopolies, Norway is proud of the fact that there is no tax on gambling, and instead, all profits go straight to good causes. 

The panel was then asked to comment on anything it would change, and in particular what lessons had been learnt in their jurisdiction. 

René Jansen, Chairman of the Netherlands Gaming Authority, explained that the new legislation around gambling in the Netherlands was highly detailed, and it was suggested that perhaps moving towards a more principle-based approach would build more trust and allow for a better assessment of behaviour.

Yanica spoke about how, due to technical and practical difficulties, Malta does not currently have a self-exclusion register across all online gambling licensees.

In Norway, there is a challenge around foreign operators targeting Norwegian citizens with marketing. Currently, the regulator is limited in what they can do where the foreign operator’s office is not based in Norway. However, Trude explained that the laws on gambling in Norway are now being rewritten and it’s hoped that the new legislation will give the Norwegian regulator better and more flexible enforcement tools. 

Brigitte Sand, Chief Executive of the Danish Gaming Authority spoke about how she champions the process of forming working groups and having dialogue with licensed operators, noting that such operators are the “good guys” who want to do the right thing and be regulated. 

The panel then discussed the reputation of the gambling sector across Europe, and Francesco noted that it’s sometimes regarded as particularly bad in more mature markets like the UK, Italy and Spain.

The panellists discussed that generally operators do not get ahead of the regulatory curve, and instead are reactive to regulators. Andrew explained that he would like to see a move towards operators working more closely with regulators and, for example, showing regulators why certain suggestions might be tricky to implement. A similar view was expressed by René in regards to the Netherlands, with the need for operators to take their duty of care seriously and actually practice what they preach.

In contrast, Trude explained that the national operator in Norway was largely popular with the public.

Similarly, in Malta, Yanica made clear that gambling was one of the most regulated industries, and explained that only around 1% of gamblers in Malta say that it’s had an adverse effect on their life. Nevertheless, she agreed that the industry should improve the way it communicates with the public, and instead of just making positive changes, it needs to ensure the public is actually aware of everything operators are doing to improve the industry.

Looking to the future, the panel discussed the impact of Brexit on the industry in Gibraltar, which has resulted in an increased appetite in Gibraltar to move away from blue chip companies and towards emerging markets. 

The panel closed by considering how an international approach could assist the industry but recognising that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all way forward.

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