These days, the security committee of the state parliament in Upper Austria is discussing the planned amendment to the gaming law. One of the topics is the relaxation of the requirements for the operation of slot machines. This means that gaming machines could soon be found in the commercial premises of supermarkets, cinemas or bakeries.
Slot machines soon in cinemas, bakeries or in the supermarket?
The current government alliance made up of the FPÖ and ÖVP plans to allow slot machines to be set up in all “publicly accessible spaces in a commercial facility” in the future. This will de facto expand the availability of games of chance, since gaming machines can then also be set up by many traders. These include, for example, bakeries, supermarkets, shopping centers or cinemas. The government in Upper Austria is thus opposing the way of the federal government. The gambling amendment in Upper Austria is accompanied by the fact that license holders can set up slot machines much more easily.
With almost 1.5 million inhabitants, Upper Austria is the third largest federal state in Austria. The state bordering Bavaria with the state capital Linz is currently governed by the Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP) and the Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ).
At the current time, like in Germany, the installation of gaming machines is only possible or permitted in “commercially approved business premises of catering establishments”. Those responsible must ensure that children and young people under the age of 18 cannot have access to the play equipment. We recently reported that in Germany, gaming machines in pubs will soon only be available with age control and blocking comparison.
There is a great outcry against planned gambling novella
The criticism of the proposed new regulations is already very loud. The governing parties in Upper Austria are criticized for the proposal from various sides. However, experts point out that the outcry is generally too great and that strict player protection measures are still in place. Accordingly, a spatial separation including access control between the actual business (e.g. bakery) and the gaming machines is required by law. In addition, not only the number of licenses, but also the number of devices installed is severely limited.
On the other hand, the state police department of Upper Austria warns of a “wild growth” in the slot machines and thus also expresses its skeptical attitude. Even the opposition parties SPÖ and Greens cannot see anything positive from the planned amendment to the law. On the contrary: You have been campaigning for a ban on small games of chance in your state for a long time. The Ministry of Finance responsible at the federal level also rejects the plans of the Upper Austrian government, as the increased presence of gaming machines in the planned unrestricted form is not desired.
However, other experts point out that the amendment to the law only reflects reality. Accordingly, it is already possible to set up slot machines in shopping centers, gas stations or cinemas. All you need is a hospitality license. This restriction should be dropped, but the other player protection measures should continue to apply. The responsible FP regional councilor Wolfgang Klinger comments on the allegations of the SPÖ and the Greens as follows:
“We take player protection in Upper Austria very seriously and will continue to ensure that the minors are not allowed to gamble”.
Theoretically, gaming machines in Upper Austria could already be set up in cinemas, shopping centers or bakeries. All that is required is a hospitality license. The fact that there will soon be a slot machine right next to the service counter at the bakery around the corner in Upper Austria is still ruled out. Because even if the planned gambling amendment is put into practice as proposed, slot machines and commercial operations must be spatially separated from each other. Whether the further liberalization of small games of chance is in the interests of player protection can nevertheless rightly be questioned.