Romania is the latest country to consider new restrictions on locally licensed gambling operators’ ability to advertise their products.
For over a year now, Romanian legislators have been trying to reduce the volume of gambling advertising on local airwaves. In May 2016, members of the opposition National Liberal Party proposed a ban on “audiovisual commercial communications related to games of chance” while limiting gambling adverts to specialty publications and “premises intended for the organization of games of chance.”
Romania’s government is now seriously considering this suggestion, with only the Senate’s final approval standing in the way of the changes becoming the law of the land. But the vagueness of the bill’s language has Romanian-licensed online operators concerned that they will be prohibited from promoting their wares online, even via their own websites.
Lexology reported that parliamentary commissions have issued opinions that the bill’s references to ‘premises’ could be construed to include the websites of Romanian-licensed operators. But these opinions lack the force of law, opening up the possibility that the government could arbitrarily choose at some future date to seek penalties against online operators who advertise via the internet.
It’s equally unclear whether the reference to ‘specialty publications’ includes online gambling affiliates or news sites. The ban on television advertising also lacks clarity on whether it applies equally to Romanian-produced programming as well as internationally-developed content that is rebroadcast in Romania.
Romania is the latest in a string of jurisdictions to adopt a harsher attitude towards gambling advertisements. Last month, Australia announced plans to restrict betting ads during sports broadcasts and this week saw Belgium put its operators on notice that further curbs were in the works. The UK is also reviewing its advertising rules although the turmoil caused by last week’s surprise general election results may have temporarily delayed these plans.
Romania ushered in its new regulated online gambling market two years ago, and while initial interest was spotty, the Oficiul National Pentru Jocuri de Noroc (ONJN) regulatory body has since issued 16 licenses to operators, including international gambling brands 888, Betfair, PokerStars, Sportingbet, Stanleybet and Unibet, as well as many more gaming technology suppliers.
The ONJN appointed Dan Iliovici as its new president in March, and the regulatory boss told Yogonet that he expected more international online operators to apply for licenses, based on his promise to pursue “less bureaucracy and simpler procedures.”