The Austrian Vice Chancellor Werner Kogler (The Greens) has announced an independent gaming authority for Austria after a meeting of the Council of Ministers.
The Austrian Finance Minister Gernot Blümel from the ÖVP had also spoken in the past on Austrian TV about wanting to disentangle several functions relating to gambling that are in the Ministry of Finance. In doing so, they want to orient themselves on international model models and focus even more strongly on topics such as player protection and the fight against illegal gambling.
The Austrian federal government now wants to finally implement the unbundling, first mentioned by Blümel.
After the excitement surrounding the Casino Austria AG scandal, it was often questioned what advantages the government’s participation in the gaming company actually has. The state of Austria currently holds 33% of the shares in Casinos Austria AG. Most of the shares, however, belong to the Sazka Group from the Czech Republic. It owns 38% of the shares. Allegedly the Czech Sazka group wants to sell its shares. Allegedly, talks should already take place.
Detachment of gambling agendas from the Treasury
According to Blümel, the “multifunction” that the government currently has in matters of gambling is not so ideal. This means that the Ministry of Finance is currently responsible for issuing licenses, as well as the supervision of the gaming market and responsibility for compliance with player protection lies with the Ministry of Finance. It should also be noted that the Ministry of Finance also earns money from the casinos.
It is precisely this status that needs to be changed. Raffaela Zillner, General Secretary of the Austrian Association for Betting and Gambling (OVWG), was also critical of this multiple role and advocated the introduction of a licensing system for Austria. For many years, the OVWG has criticized the fact that providers of online games of chance that are licensed by the EU encounter discrimination in Austria in order to protect the state monopoly of Casinos Austria.
Blümel would also like to outsource the areas of licensing and supervision to the new authority so that they are no longer influenced by politics, but only by managers who are not subject to instructions.
It is also important for Zillner that not only CASAG receives the license to operate online casinos. All providers of gambling and sports betting should receive these if they prove to be suitable for it. Casinos Austria, one third of which is state owned, have so far received all licenses for casinos and a very lucrative lottery license.
Moving licensing and oversight of the gaming industry is seen as a good first step in the right direction. According to Zillner, the licenses must not be limited under any circumstances.
The appointment process of the new authority is still open. A judicial concession panel will be responsible for the procedures for licenses and concessions. Strict provisions regarding incompatibility, transparency and compliance will apply there.
Private providers have been calling for liberalization for years
Providers from the online sector have very strong doubts about the legality of Austria’s monopoly solution and have been calling for the liberalization of the gaming market for years. Casinos Austria, of course, see it differently and believe that everything complies with the requirements of EU law.
The private providers want an independent authority to issue licenses to reputable providers and that online gambling is not only allowed to Casinos Austria. At the moment it looks like that, according to the regulations, games can only be played on the win2day site. The other online gambling providers have a license from Gibraltar or Malta.
They are of the opinion that they can operate throughout the Union if they have a license from an EU country. In the online gaming sector, there have been legal gray areas over the years, which have arisen as a result of deviations from national law and EU regulations. That is why gambling regulations in Austria are to be revised.
The reaction from Novomatic and Casinos Austria
In principle, the planned introduction of a gaming supervision free of instructions was well received by both Novomatic and Casinos Austria. Novomatic longed for the introduction of such an authority. Now the wish of the group would finally be fulfilled.
Above all, Casinos Austria see the intensified action against illegal gambling as progress.
Preparations for the introduction of the authority are under way and the first papers have already been signed by the Council of Ministers. It is not yet clear when the gaming authority will open.