Sunny Days in the Horizon

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The unblock of the online gambling industry in Romania, with the enactment of several legislative pieces which set the premises for effectively allowing online gambling to be legally offered in the jurisdiction, took operators and service providers interested in the market as well as their lawyers on a high speed roller coaster ride of relentless loops and twists which nonetheless reached the “full license” final destination safely.

Thus, after a standstill period when few steps were made to make this sector a flourishing one (as, even though permitted by law since 2010, the nuts and bolts for such activity to be legally conducted were missing), the Romanian online gambling sector was dominated in these past two years by a constant hustle and bustle which got everyone’s adrenaline pumping.

The first tangible results came in 2015, when the first online gambling operators entered the market by obtaining the right to organize and operate remote gambling activites, valid for one year from its issuance date. After the interim process ended, 19 operators remained active based on their 1 year long temporary right to operate, the last interim licenses expiring on January 31st, 2017. Since the infrastructure was not yet ready for supporting Class 1 licenses applications, the interim licenses were designed to give both the regulator and the operators the necessary time to prepare the ground.

As such, even before the interim licenses vortex was closed, most operators had already started documenting on the process and requirements to obtain the Class 1 license, valid for 10 years, realizing that the only way for them to avoid any black-outs and ensure continuity in their activity was if their class 1 license applications will be approved in a timely manner so that their licenses will enter into force before or at the latest upon expiration of their interim right.

One of many criteria to be met by the operators for obtaining a class 1 license was to use products and services provided only by licensed suppliers, implying thus the necessity for their long time partners (for example, software providers, payment processors, affiliates, etc.) in other jurisdictions to apply and be granted the relevant class 2 licenses issued by the NGO per type of activity. Certifiers and auditors were also included in this category, since operators were also required to prove, as part of the class 1 license application, that they hold certification of the gambling software and platform, performed by a specialized testing laboratory, which holds a class 2 license granted by NGO.

Despite the legal provisions’ inconsistencies and gaps as well as the novelty of the process, the class 1 license applications were prepared accordingly and approved in due time for the operators pressed for time.

Currently, there are already 11 remote gambling operators which have been granted with a Class 1 license, all of them being already active in Romania in virtue of their interim right granted in 2015.

In respect of the gambling related services providers, there are over 170 specialized suppliers which hold a Class 2 license at the moment, covering all the categories of activities which trigger the licensing obligation as per the secondary gambling legislation, including the ones targeting the land-based operators. This proves not only the loyalty of the suppliers towards the operators with whom they have long-lasting business relations in other jurisdictions, but also the fact that many of them had their eyes on the Romanian market for some time. Nevertheless, their entry in the Romanian gambling space was a key element in the granting of the class 1 licenses, being also the best solution for the operators to choose services already known to them and facilitating the integration of their gaming products to the Romanian market.

With a rather long history of the land-based casino industry in Romania (the well-known Romania’s majestic Constanta Casino dating back to the beginning of the 20th century), the online sector came only to add to the over 60 licenses granted for land-based gambling activities, making the Romanian gambling market one full of both substance and diversity.

After all the licensing thrill, it would now seem that the restlessness in the Romanian online gambling sector has somewhat quiet down, even though there are still operators performing their activity on the basis of the interim right and which, in normal circumstances, will apply for the 10 years license by the time their interim right expires.

Now that the first steps have been made and the market seems to have entered onto a linear well-beaten path, gambling seems to appeal to many others who now show a vivid interest into getting a piece of the cake. In a country with 19 millions inhabitants with taste for gambling, this cake must be sweet.

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