A new draft law in Romania introduces significant restrictions on the advertising of gambling activities (the “Draft Law”). The Draft Law aims to amend Law no. 148/2000 regarding advertising and Law no. 504/2002 on audio-visual communications and is currently in the process of final legislative approval by the Romanian Senate. If passed in its current form, it will provide the following restrictions:
(1) advertising of gambling activities will be permitted only within the premises where gambling activities are organised and in gambling-specialised publications; and
(2) audio-visual commercial communications regarding gambling activities will be prohibited.
Despite the Draft Law’s commendable aim, to protect vulnerable consumers and limit gambling addiction, the Draft Law lacks clarity and substance and may prove to be insufficiently adapted to the realities of the gambling sector. In particular, the Draft Law does not explicitly address the use of online platforms to advertise gambling. Considering that the only means of advertising allowed under the Draft Law are those on the premises of gambling establishments and in gambling-specific publications, a plain reading of the Draft Law suggests that it outright prohibits online advertising of gambling activities.
However, opinions issued by parliamentary commissions state that the Draft Law should be interpreted extensively to allow advertising on internet pages of gambling operators authorised in Romania to perform gambling activities. This interpretation is in line with current gambling legislation, which allows gambling operators to promote gambling on their own internet pages, without such activity being considered “advertisement” under the law. However, these opinions are not enforceable unless further reflected in the enacted Draft Law and may result in conflict with current regulations as to whether promotion on gambling operator’s own websites qualifies as advertising.
Whether the Draft Law allows advertising on online publications specialised in gambling is also unclear, considering the lack of comprehension to the limitations on gambling advertising under point (1) above.
The Government expressed concern about the scope of the Draft Law’s ban on all audio-visual commercial communications intended for gambling activities. As far as television advertising is concerned, the Draft Law does not clarify whether the restriction applies only to audio-visual programs licensed in Romania or also to programs which are retransmitted in Romania but whose content is subject to the laws of a different jurisdiction. If this prohibition applies only to programs licensed in Romania, the Government’s view is that discrimination issues could arise when the two types of programs (namely licensed and retransmitted) have similar content.
Considering the several controversial aspects of the Draft Law and the increasing relevance of online gambling activity targeting consumers in Romania, we expect further debate on the Draft Law.