BUSINESS

It’s going to be one hell of a year for Europe!

TAGs: Belgium, Germany, holland, Italy, spain

eu flagBullet Business hosted a webinar earlier this afternoon where experts from various European countries summed up their home markets. We were lucky enough to listen in and here’s a round up of what went on.

First up was Quirino Mancini who spoke about the market in Italy. After promising to tell us something new and exciting that we didn’t really know before, hetold us quite a lot of stuff that we already knew. He did add, “The market is very crowded but from the numbers it looks like the market is responding, especially cash games.”

Tatjana Klaesar, lawyer at ULYS, gave all those listening a briefing on the French and Belgian markets. After outlining the current situation in France she explained “voices are getting louder” over changes that are needed to set the taxation system in place. All sides of the political spectrum agree that it needs to be different and she added they might not take place until after the next election in 2012. France’s taxation system has been lambasted from the start and managed to survive Stephane Courbit’s diatribe late last year. It won’t be lasting much longer though. Klaesar also didn’t rule out land-based operators arguing that this system shows differentiation between the two mediums thus kicking off an argument at EU level. Woof.

The panelist explained this could also be the case in the Belgian market as well. Their new Gambling Act, which was published on 1 January this year, covers all gambling bases and works on a gross revenue taxation system. In addition, regional governments have favorable rates for firms setting up remotely. These favorable rates may lead to the land-based operators to allege state aid in much the same way the land-based operators did in Denmark. One difference is land-based operators are the only ones permitted to allow remote gaming. As such, joint ventures are commonplace and it means that a state aid challenge is unlikely. If you ask us, they’d much rather be eating a waffle and smoking a bong.

Spanish gaming expert Santiago Asensi explained what is coming up next in the country’s gaming market with the public tender expected to be announced as 14th, 15th and 16th November in the next few days. The deadline to apply for the license will be a month after this with the market expected to open in 1 January and around 40 companies are expected to apply.

2012 – ONE HELL OF A YEAR

The big one was Germany where we had Wulf Hambach comparing the partition between the two different models as “a bit like a wall” but NOT like the Berlin one. Phew!

On one side of the ring, you have the 15 states other than Schleswig-Holstein with their draft law. It has been thrown out by the European Commission gaming companies and has been through more alterations than a larger-then-life girl’s dress. The amendments aside, it was supposed to be in place by 1 January and this is something that’s now unlikely. Although the leaders of the 15 other states are meeting on 26 October where they hope the new draft, which reportedly includes 22 sports betting licenses and will now be taxed at 5-7% on turnover, will be signed.

On the other side are proposals in Schleswig-Holstein that are widely favored by…everyone. The first draft law has been approved and now the secondary legislation including technical requirements are on the table and ready to roll. It’s expected that’ll be ready by next month ahead of licenses being handed out in January and then the market opening up in March. Online lotteries can begin in January and it will be the first time Germany has seen one since 2008. Looking forwards, Hambach expects there will be “fights” between the two systems and that the Schleswig-Holstein won’t be stopped from operating in other regions as it’s too hard to do so. In Hambach’s words, “It’s going to be one hell of a year.”

REGULATOR NO LONGER A FAIRY TALE

Finishing off the webinar was Justin Franssen talking about the Dutch market. “We may have a real regulator by January,” was said in reference to a meeting that took place in early September.

Two political parties with a socialist agenda hijacked the government ministerial meeting and a number of motions were filed. It was wrongly reported that these were amendments. They simply amounted to suggestions by MPs that can are easily neglected by the council, according to Franssen.

The speaker seemed genuinely rather perturbed by all three of the motions with the first an attempt to copy the Belgian model. It would mean licenses only being granted for casinos that have a physical presence, something he described as an “insane suggestion.” This is because it wouldn’t abolish the monopolies that the gaming act sets out to do, as there’s only one land-based operator in the country. You tell ‘em Jussie!

Second was the immediate enforcement of the gaming act so that companies operating are prosecuted. Lastly, he moved onto the motion to exclude current operators who are offering services from hosting any future business. “It could be disastrous,” was how Franssen summed it up, before adding that the consumer, operators and taxman lose out.

The webinar just goes to back the comments made by John Penrose that the market is way too fragmented for them to even start to think about EU-wide harmonization. For now there’s a lot to be sorted and the start of 2012 is going to be a pivotal time for many of the gaming industry’s public gaming firms. As for the private firms…they just told us to call 1-800-ASIA.

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