The year 2013 has been marked by a series of changes in the legislation regulating gambling games in Romania. More precisely, existing Government Emergency Ordinance no. 77/2009 on the organization and operation of gambling games and Government Decision no. 870/2009 for the approval of the methodological guidelines for the application of Government Emergency Ordinance no. 77/2009 have been repeatedly amended in February, April, July and August. Also, a new piece of legislation has entered into force on 3 April 2013, i.e. Government Emergency Ordinance no. 20/2013 regarding the establishment, organization and operation of the National Office for Gambling Games, the new regulatory authority in this field. The material changes brought by the above referenced legislation consist of the following:
- The National Office for Gambling Games is the new entity regulating and monitoring gambling activity; authority previously held by the Commission for the authorisation of gambling games, subordinated to the Ministry of Public Finances.
- A supervisory committee (the “Committee”) was set up as part of the National Office for Gambling Games, having the following main competences:
- grants gambling games operators the licenses/authorizations required by law for the organisation and operation of the gambling games activities regulated by law
- issues the operators certificates and approvals requested by law in view of, for example, (i) manufacturing of various gambling machines (either for own use or for placing them on the market) and (ii) enforcement of gaming regulations and internal rules applicable by such operators
- settles the preliminary complaints filed by the gambling games operators against the Committee’s decisions
- A specific type of gambling game, namely bingo games carried out via television networks (not requiring the physical presence of the players), was re-introduced in the legislation. The legal regime of these bingo games has been repeatedly modified since their initial classification as lawful gambling games in 1992. The most recent prohibition of bingo games carried out via television networks had been introduced in August 2012.
- The introduction of poker clubs, consisting of establishments dedicated exclusively to the operation of cards games], subject to a specific legal regime. Economic operators require a license and an authorization issued by the National Office for Gambling Games in order to operate a poker club.
The above legal amendments intend to reflect the new priorities identified by the Romanian legislator, consisting of reducing tax evasion and increasing tax collections to the state budget. Also, some of those amendments seem to have been triggered by alleged restrictions on competition among the operators of bingo games, as well as the need to establish a single dedicated regulatory authority in charge with the supervision and control of the operators in the field of gambling games.
The gambling games legislation in Romania is expected to be further modified by the prospected entry into force of Law no. 244/2013, on 1 February 2014. Such new legislation shall amend the procedure to be followed in case of an alleged criminal offence committed by the gambling games operators. In particular, the obligations incumbent upon the state entities involved in the sanctioning process shall be limited, excluding, for example, the obligation of the relevant state entity to obtain a statement from the alleged faulty operator.