European gambling stunted by overregulation: SiGMA Europe

Men using mobile phone and SiGMA Europe logoSiGMA Europe, the Virtual Expo, has begun, and it’s already started warning the continent that things are getting rough. The first panel of the day, “2020 in a Nutshell”, warned legislators that Europe may fall behind the competition if new regulations continue to clamp down on the industry.

The Covid-19 pandemic has a lot to do with why operators and regulators are concerned about the new status-quo, as it has sometimes led to legislator overreach. “The truth is that the situation has changed,” said Yanica Sant, Head of International Affairs and Policy, Malta Gaming Authority (MGA). “The attitude has changed, the world has changed, it’s become more regulated.”

From her perspective, operators would be wise to not test limits at this time. “The truth is there is a higher price to pay, not just financially, but as the public perception becomes worse, so do the legislative initiatives become stricter,” she said.

Maarten Haijer, Secretary General for the European Gaming and Betting Association (EGBA), said that there is a balance to strike for regulators and legislators as well. If operators can’t advertise and becomes less attractive betting options than their international counterparts, customers will vote with their wallet. “Clearly, the position of Europe will be relatively weakened compared to especially the US jurisdictions,” he said.

Morten Ronde, Managing Partner, Nordic Gambling, agreed, noting that smaller markets are giving the industry little choice but to look elsewhere:

“Some operators will just leave it aside to focus on bigger markets. It creates challenges for those jurisdictions because maybe there won’t be enough supply, or attractive supply, for the consumers. If I was an operator, I would focus on bigger markets, the US now, and leave maybe some of the more difficult, smaller jurisdictions behind.”

Sant conceded the point. “It is high time that the legislators across Europe realize that it is their duty to make sure that this industry is sustainable.” She said.

The panel, led by Joseph Borg, Moderator, Partner, WH Partners, also considered the wider impacts of the pandemic. Haijer, who lobbies for the industry’s position, noted it made his job very difficult. “Nothing really beats meeting people in person,” he said.

Sant agreed, possibly implying that regulators have had a more difficult job without easier access to collaboration. “When you’re not in a position to meet and discuss your issues and matters of cooperation with your colleagues abroad, it tends to also have an effect on the regulation itself. This highlighted the scope for improved operation among regulators too,” she said.

When discussing the heavy shift to online offerings in 2020, Haijer predicted that a trend that was clearly starting has only accelerated. Sant didn’t quite agree. “We will see is an integration of remote in the land-based outlets,” she said in concession, but offered “I don’t envisage an entire shift.”

There was also discussion around the huge money makes of 2020: elections and esports. “Big tournaments, elections will catch the attention of the bigger audience, and I think esports will have a more difficult position,” Haijer said, looking forward. “It will be growing, but it won’t be the same magnitude as live sports and live betting.”

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