On 1 January 2017, a new amendment to the Slovak Act on Gambling entered into force. On the basis of this amendment, the Financial Directorate of the Slovak Republic became authorised to maintain and publish on its website a blacklist of prohibited websites. A website is prohibited if it promotes or operates a gambling service which is accessible in Slovakia without the relevant licence required under the Act on Gambling.
The first blacklist was published on 17 July 2017. The blacklist is updated on the first working day of each calendar week. As of 8 August 2017, the list contained 18 websites, including bwin.com, williamhill.com, bet-at-home.com, and bet365.com, amongst others.
Prior to being blacklisted, the gambling operators of the relevant website were requested by the Financial Directorate to cease promoting and operating the unlicensed gambling services.
Following publication of the blacklist, the operators of the relevant websites can expect the Financial Directorate to apply for a court order, pursuant to which all applicable internet service providers and payment service providers will be obliged to block access to the blacklisted websites and block payments to accounts accepting bets from the unlicensed gambling services, respectively.
The new blacklist has received criticism from many in the industry. Gambling operators established and licensed in other EU member states have expressed the view that the blacklist violates EU law by restricting free movement of services. Cybersecurity experts warn that DNS blocking can be easily circumvented and is therefore ineffective. Civil rights activists meanwhile are concerned that the mechanisms developed for the purposes of blocking gambling websites can be abused to curb free speech and implement censorship. Finally, providers of electronic communications services and banks have complained that the state did not set precise rules on how the blocking - which they will be obliged to do on the basis of the court order (without having the right to appeal) - shall be carried out.
We expect more practical issues and complaints relating to the blacklisting of certain gambling providers to arise in the months to come.