Good news for Slovakia as plans for online operators drive forward.
Despite recent advancements, Europe is still not as forward with online gambling as you might think, as countries such as Slovakia demonstrate.
The landlocked country, famous for its mountains and lakes, counts Poland, Hungary, Austria, Ukraine and the Czech Republic among its neighbors. But with regards to online gambling, the country is taking the lead from European allies such as Denmark and opening up its markets next year.
Applications open in spring
Back in July, the new Gambling Act drafted by the Ministry of Finance was approved at the country’s parliament, giving access to the online gaming market to private operators.
The legislation, which was submitted to the European Commission in July this year and subject to a three-month standstill period that ended on 26 October, must now be ratified by the country’s president Andrej Kiska to come into force.
The amended Gambling Act has been designed to reflect regulation in other European Union markets such as Denmark, Sweden, Romania and the Czech Republic, with an emphasis on ramping up consumer protection measures.
Within the legislation was a window, starting from 1 March 2019, that would allow operators to submit applications for online casino licenses.
These would be set at €3m ($3.39m) and granted for 10 years. The market would then officially launch on 1 July with a tax rate set at 22% of gross gaming revenue including online casino, peer-to-peer online games, and fixed-odds sports betting.
There is also the opportunity to combine land and online licenses – the maximum period for this is just 10 years, but the combined cost would come down to around €5m($5.65m).
It’s not all great news though; any operators who have been previously issued with a blocking order under the old Gambling Act will still be blocked from applying for a new license.
After July, fixed-odd betting licenses will become available, but these services will not become in place until July 2020, still with the same 10-year term.
With a new market comes a new, dedicated regulatory body that is to be funded via the gross gaming revenue tax. The power to block access to sites and blacklist operators, previously in place since July last year, will help the yet-to-be-named operator to manage a self-exclusion database.
Similarities with European countries such as Denmark have been drawn, as the state-owned gaming operator, TIPOS, continues to hold the monopoly when it comes to the lottery, bingo, and instant win games. However, it will now start to compete against other private operators in the online domain.
Tightening up land-based operations
Among the opportunities for operators, the July Gambling Act also tightened up land-based gambling regulations. The distance was an essential part, with an amendment added to the act that will make gambling halls keep a distance of at least 200 metres from each other.
There are also restrictions on the days that casinos can open; they must agree to stay closed for at least 12 days a year. However, the number of machines in the room of each gaming venue was increased from 12 to 15.
Unusually, quiz machines have also been rounded up in the legislation and are now classified as gambling. Any punters looking to get their fix will now have to visit a casino, as pubs and restaurants are banned from displaying them.
It is thought a full list of operators’ applications and approvals will be made available later in the spring.