Wednesday, February 20, 2019

What will happen to Gibraltar, post-Brexit? In 1713, by the Treaty of Utrecht, the Spanish ceded the sovereignty of Gibraltar, nicknamed “the Rock”, to the British Crown, and it has remained a British territory ever since. Why did the Spanish cede sovereignty? It was all to do with the incestuous royal families of Europe. Charles II of Spain, who had died childless, had named Philip, grandson of French King Louis XIV, to be his successor. The other powers of Europe would have none of this, worrying that Philip (now Philip V of Spain) would eventually combine the powers of France and Spain. They went to war, trying to install another candidate on the Spanish throne.

That war ended with the Treaty of Utrecht. Philip V agreed to give up his claim to the French throne, and the British insisted that part of the price to get their agreement to the treaty was for the Spanish to yield the sovereignty of Gibraltar, a strategic port which controlled who came into and left the Mediterranean Sea. Fourteen years later, a Spanish army besieged Gibralter, asserting that the British had lost the legal right to hold the territory. Ever since, Spain has been disputing British control, with the strength and volume of the claim depending heavily on the political climate in Madrid.

by Valérie Peano, Attorney-at-Law
EGLA – European Gambling Lawyers & Advisors

Legal provisions adopted in Italy concerning gambling are quite worrying.

Currently, the Italian Senate is debating another increase of the fiscal levy rate for video lotteries (VLT) and amusement with prizes (AWP) machines (low stakes, low prizes). Under the current government, these gaming machines already had two tax increases: one in July 2018, with the ‘Dignity Decree’, in order to compensate for the loss of revenues expected because of the ban on gambling advertising and sponsorships; and a second one, in December, with the Budget Law for 2019.
 
During last year, most of the local municipalities and regions in Italy passed regulations requiring gambling venues to be a certain distance away from “sensitive” locations such as schools, churches and hospitals, with the distances differing from one municipality to another.

The Euro News Revue
by Hannah Gannagé-Stewart and Andrew Tottenham
Hannah says: This week, the Netherlands is closing in on the end of a protracted process to regulate online gaming. In a vote on Tuesday, the Dutch Senate passed a remote gambling bill that was greenlit by the lower chamber in 2016. Despite the bill proposing one of the highest tax rates in Europe (29%), website Dutch News reports that 300 companies have expressed an interest in entering the estimated €600m market, and about 50 are expected to make a formal application.

A report commissioned by the current monopoly gambling provider Holland Casino, issued earlier this year, found that illegal gambling was on the rise in the country, with 1.8 million people thought to have gambled illegally online over the last year, a rise of 300,000 since 2016. During senate debates earlier his month, Sander Dekker, the Dutch minister for legal protection, argued that operators that had been illegally targeting the market should be banned for two years before being allowed to apply for licences.
Hannah says: The Malta Gaming Authority (MGA) is baring its teeth, announcing a slew of license suspensions over the last week. The latest suspension notice posted on the MGA’s website calls on Malta-based Bet Service Group Limited to “suspend all gaming operations with immediate effect”. Other operators in the firing line this month were German bookmaker Betixx Limited, Malta-based developer Morpheus Games, and World-of-bets EU Limited, with the latter having had its license terminated in perpetuity. The MGA is refusing to release detailed reasons for the enforcement actions until it has completed its investigations. However, the suspensions have seen the affected firms being asked to stop accepting new customers or deposits and to remove content and promotions from their sites.
Andrew says: It now seems unlikely that Holland Casino, the State monopoly for casino gambling in the Netherlands, is to be privatised any time soon. The Government had been pushing for the sale along with the legalisation of online gambling. Apart from the philosophical question of whether governments should own gambling businesses, there was additional pressure at the time the sale was proposed because Holland Casino was losing money.

It initially appeared that the sale of the casino company was the least contentious part of the Bill before parliament, and some legislators had urged that the Bill be split so that the privatisation was not held up by the more controversial legalisation of online gambling. Now it appears that the Government has dropped the privatisation because there is little support for the sale.
Hannah says: French regulator L’Autorité de régulation des jeux en ligne (ARJEL) has backed calls to reform the French betting tax system, in a bid to overcome what it described as a “fragility” in the market. The regulator is considering bringing France in line with most other European gambling tax regimes, by calculating tax on the basis of gross gambling revenue rather than turnover. Operators are currently taxed at 5.7% of turnover. The nod towards tax reform came alongside ARJEL’s report that 2018 had seen record rises in gambling revenue. Betting turnover grew 56% to €3.9bn in 2018, while revenues rose 46% to €691m. Those increases occurred despite the average spend per player dropping by 10%, attributed to new, lower-spending sports bettors.
Hannah says: The 69 operators licensed in Sweden have been given one month to demonstrate a “noticeable change” in the way they are advertising in the newly re-regulated market. Failure to rein in their marketing practices could result in tougher regulation going forward, Sweden’s minister for civil affairs Ardalan Shekarabi has warned. Despite a regulatory condition to exercise moderation in advertising and marketing, Shekarabi says current practices are proving to be “excessive and aggressive”.

In January the Swedish regulator Spelinspektionen threatened to rescind the licences of operators that failed to comply with the country’s self-exclusion scheme. All eyes turn to the regulator now to see whether its rules are as strictly enforced for state-owned Svenska Spel as it sounds like they will be for newcomers to the jurisdiction.
Andrew says: After a time that seems close to the gestation period of an elephant, it is reported that at the end of the week the Greek Government will finally give birth to the tender for the license for a casino in the Hellinikon project. According to Greek news site Naftemporiki, the tender will be published in the EU’s official journal, a legal requirement for all major Government procurement tenders. Alarmingly, respondents are only to be given sixty days to respond to the tender. Given the size of the project, it will be very difficult for newcomers to put in a compliant bid.

Also, I’ve heard that the tender was delayed because the Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund S.A (TAIPED), the Greek state agency responsible for privatisation and asset sales, had got involved, saying that it should be responsible for the terms of the tender because they have responsibility for maximising the returns on State assets, and that a casino license is a State asset. If TAIPED does take charge, then it is likely that the respondents will be required to bid a monetary amount for the license, and preference will be given to those that have bid the most money rather than offered the best project. And if that preference is in fact put in place, then I predict another case of the winner’s curse.
Hannah says: The Norwegian Gaming Authority (NGA) has made a stand against gambling operators who cross European jurisdictional lines to offer unlicensed products in the country. The Times of Malta reports that the regulator, which supervises Norway’s only two legal providers, Norsk Tipping and Norsk Rikstoto, has accused six Malta-based gaming firms of operating “illegally” in the country. The accused firms - the Betsson Group, Co-Gaming Ltd, L&L Europe Players Ltd, the Gaming Innovation Group, Kindred Group, and Lucky Dino Gaming Ltd - have received warning letters as part of the Norwegian crackdown.

Furthermore, Norwegian banks have been ordered to block payments to or from accounts associated with the six firms. The hard-line stance flies in the face of advice from the European Gaming and Betting Association (EGBA) last year, which dubbed the country’s regulations “unsustainable” and urged the Norwegian government to reform its legislation to allow foreign gaming companies to operate.
Andrew says: There are lies, damn lies, and - if we are being generous - misunderstandings. This well-written piece by Regulus Partners explains how the statistics in reports about problem gambling are bandied around with little understanding of what the terms mean. In particular, a person who is determined to be a problem gambler according to the DSM IV screen is not necessarily a gambling addict. All gambling addicts are problem gamblers but not all problem gamblers are addicts. Unfortunately, the media and politicians use the terms interchangeably.
This report is edited by Andrew Tottenham and Justin Martin
Tottenham & Co
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London SW3 3HD, UK