Hungary proposes end to online sports betting monopoly

hungary-online-sports-betting-monopolyHungary has offered amendments to its proposed online gambling legislation that would reduce the number of online casino licensees and eliminate the state’s monopoly on sports betting.

Earlier this month, Hungary sent the European Commission some proposed amendments to its Gambling Act to ‘liberalize’ the country’s online gambling market. That plan called for online sports betting to be the sole province of the state-run Szerencsejáték Zrt, while the state’s seven brick-and-mortar casino operators would be eligible to apply for online casino and poker licenses.

Fast forward to last week, when a member of the majority governing party proposed new amendments. These amendments would restrict the number of online casino licensees to two, meaning five casinos would miss out on the online party. Furthermore, those two lucky licensees would also be allowed to offer online sports betting. Whichever system ultimately prevails, the changes would take effect on September 1.

However, DLA Piper attorneys were skeptical that the proposed amendments would meet with parliamentary approval, as the proposal is “a very poorly drafted piece of legislation, being unclear and containing several contradictions and incoherence.” On Monday, Parliament began discussing the proposed amendments at its plenary meeting, which will continue through Tuesday.

The European Gaming and Betting Association (EGBA) has said Hungary’s decision to restrict online licenses to its existing land-based gaming licensees was “discriminatory and has an adverse effect on the Single Market” of the European Union. The EGBA believes that if Hungary approves the legislation as written, a European Commission legal challenge will follow.

In the meantime, Hungary continues its attempts to IP-block unauthorized online gambling operators, which have so far proven more adept at circumventing the country’s online blacklist than the country has in enforcing it.