Gambling business in Romania today is absolutely legal. Land-based gambling entertainment is widespread and popular in the country. Online gambling was officially legalized relatively recently – in 2015. At the same time, the state authorities continue to work on improving the legal framework. The latest amendments to the relevant legal acts were made in 2016. The new regulations have significantly changed the situation in the online gambling industry.
Modern history of the development of gambling – gambling legislation in Romania
Romania has a long history of legalizing gambling. The first national lottery in the country, Lottery Romana, appeared back in 1906. During the reign of Nicolae Ceausescu, gambling was prohibited. However, in 1990, after the overthrow of his power, the gambling business was legalized again. Already in 1991, the first casino appeared in the country, founded by the Austrian company Casino Austria.
From that moment, the active development of the gambling industry in Romania began:
- 1992 – the work of the Gambling Business Commission was organized. The department was entrusted with the responsibility of monitoring the activities of all land-based casinos in the country.
- 1993 – The Law on Taxation of Gambling Establishments was adopted
- 1998 – compulsory licensing was introduced. The provisions are enshrined in the Law “On the regulation of the gambling business”
- 1999 – requirements for sites and buildings were introduced, which were used for the organization of a casino
- 2003 – the government develops a scheme for attracting foreign investment. The activity of bookmakers that accept sports bets is allowed.
Today, the work of land-based gambling establishments is regulated by almost a dozen official laws, decrees, and regulations. In addition, there are additional instructions, orders, decisions presented by the National Office of Gambling.
Legal regulation of online gambling business
The situation with the legalization of online gambling looks a little more complicated. In fact, gambling sites have been operating on Romanian servers since 2008-2009. But until 2015, their activities were considered illegal.
The first attempt to legalize online casinos took place in 2009. However, the European Commission found a number of shortcomings in the submitted bill and “wrapped” it.
The process of legalizing online gambling, carried out in 2011, ended in a similar way. The EU representatives ruled that Romanian laws are not fully consistent with the provisions in force in the European Union.
And only the last law, adopted in 2015, was deemed satisfactory. The country’s authorities have established a legal framework for doing business for local and international companies. Along with that, they introduced a three-tier taxation system.
Operators operating on the black market since 2009 also received an offer to legalize. The issue could be resolved by paying a 20% tax on all income received over the years of activity.
Oficiul Național pentru Jocuri de Noroc – gambling regulator in Romania
At the same time, in 2015, the work of the official regulator of gambling – the National Gambling Bureau of Romania (Oficiul Național pentru Jocuri de Noroc, ONJN) was organized. Thus, the state was able to centralize all activities related to the gambling business on the Internet.
The primary tasks of the department were:
- licensing of online operators;
- control over the activities of casinos on the Internet;
- research and analysis of trends in the European online gambling market.
According to the head of the department, Cristinela Nistor, among other things, the Bureau seeks to present proposals for the development of new provisions to bring Romanian legislation in line with European norms. And thus, stimulate the market and increase budget revenues.
The results were not long in coming. Already in 2016, new rules for online gambling operators were published. According to their provisions, the following requirements have been introduced:
- to providers: they must be residents of Romania or the EU and have the appropriate licenses;
- to the terms of payment of taxes: the exact time frame, methods of payment and penalties have been determined in case of violation of these requirements;
- to the design of sites: online casinos undertake to clearly prescribe the sizes of bets, prizes, limits and percentages in Romanian.
The new provisions caused a mixed reaction. As it turned out, most operators do not have licenses that meet the requirements of the new rules.
Some of the companies chose to leave the Romanian market. In particular, William Hill has suspended its casinos.
However, many providers have complied with the laws passed in 2015-2016. In addition, several well-known companies have announced their desire to develop the Romanian market.
Conditions for obtaining gambling licenses in Romania
Today gambling in Romania falls into several categories:
- slot machines;
- Board games;
- online casino games.
Rather stringent requirements are imposed on the organizers of the gambling business. Each type of gambling requires a separate license.
To obtain permission to conduct activities in land-based establishments, business organizers must provide:
- application for a license;
- lease agreement or documents on ownership of the premises intended for the establishment;
- documents confirming the compliance of the premises with the current requirements;
- a certificate of no criminal record of the company’s managers;
- documents confirming the “purity” of the origin of the start-up capital;
- certificates of absence of debts to the budget.
In addition, it is necessary to form a special guarantee fund for winning payments.
A mandatory requirement is the provision of documents confirming the originality and good technical condition of the gaming equipment. Licenses are purchased not only for conducting business, but for each machine. There are age requirements for employees of institutions.
Types of gambling licenses in Romania
Permits are issued separately for each type of gambling business:
- a license to organize the activities of land-based establishments. Validity period – 10 years. The annual license fees range from EUR 15 thousand (poker clubs) to 20 thousand (casinos) depending on the type of activity. Game types also determine the authorization fee. In addition, land-based casino operators are required to pay annual contributions to the Community Fund for Responsible Gaming;
- license to organize the operation of an online casino. The appendix to the document indicates which games are hosted on the platform. The license is valid for 10 years. The volume of annual license fees depends on the profitability of the portals: EUR 60 thousand with a turnover of 500 thousand, 120 thousand – with a total profit of over 10 million. Also, an authorization fee and contributions to the fund for responsible gaming are paid;
- license for the supply of content, platforms, software.
Restrictions on admission to gambling
Despite the legalization of the gambling business, there are severe restrictions in Romania. In particular, only adult citizens who have reached the age of 18 are allowed to play.
Moreover, according to the rules introduced in 2016, operators are obliged to take care of the protection of minors:
- it is forbidden to install billboards near educational institutions
- the marketing materials contain an indication of the prohibition of the participation of minors in gambling
- online casinos have strict account verification procedures.
All gambling establishments and portals are obliged to cooperate with the Public Foundation for Responsible Gaming and to monitor the signs of the probable occurrence of gambling addiction among visitors.
Popular online casinos in Romania
Due to the recent terms of legalization of online gambling business in the country, Romanian casinos are still little known. Among the popular portals, users note the resources of international operators:
- Europa casino;
- Slots Magic;
- Casino Room.
Most of them are multi-platform portals offering the opportunity to play slots from well-known manufacturers: Microgaming, IGT, NetEnt, Betsoft, Merkur, and others.
Prospects for the development of gambling business in Romania
Despite the rather strict legal requirements and the ongoing regulation of the online industry, experts positively assess the prospects for the development of gambling in Romania. The positive forecasts are supported by the facts confirming the active development of the market by international operators. For instance:
- the opening of a live casino studio by Playtech;
- obtaining a Romanian license by the developer and supplier of gambling games Yggdrasil Gaming;
- registration of the Romanian license by the content provider for the online casino EveryMatrix;
- opening of a localized Internet site 888 Holdings. The resource is a united portal of casino games, poker room and bookmaker’s office of the brand.
According to a report by the European Gaming Commission, the influx of companies wishing to enter the Romanian market has increased markedly. 13 operators became the holders of temporary licenses. And the list of applicants for obtaining permits continues to grow.