Romanian Legislation Cracks Down on Gambling in Less Populated Localities

In a decisive move that marks a significant turning point for the gambling industry in Romania, the nation’s Parliament has cast its vote in support of Government Emergency Ordinance (GEO) 82/2023, bringing key amendments into play, notable among which is the targeting of slot machine operations in the country’s smaller communities. Since its enactment on October 6, 2023, this ordinance has spurred intense discussions, leading to a pivotal change that eliminates slot machines from localities with a population below 15,000 individuals. This legislative step effectuates a prohibition of such gambling activities in rural domains and thinly populated townships.

As is customary in Romania’s legislative framework, government emergency ordinances such as GEO 82/2023 can be invoked to enforce laws rapidly; however, they still require the crucial step of parliamentary backing post-enactment. Over the recent week, the Parliament exercised its authority to either sanction the ordinance as is, amend it, or entirely dismiss it. Faced with these options, the legislators chose to ratify the ordinance with alterations.

The legislation is now pending approval from Romanian President Klaus Iohannis who has the capacity to endorse the law or return it to Parliament for further review. Following his decision, the law stipulates a period of 10 days before it officially goes into effect.

According to insights from Simion and Baciu, a distinguished Romanian law firm, the curtailment of slot machines could precipitate more complications for the already troubled land-based gambling sector within the country. The firm emphasized that such a sweeping reform could effectively outlaw slot-machine wagering in less populated regions—echoing the sentiments expressed by the governing coalition during numerous public debates in preceding months.

The law’s nuances, as well as its recent amendments, were discussed in detail within a draft law dedicated to the ordinance’s ratification. The complete legislative package introduced six key amendments. One of which takes a further step in regulatory oversight requiring a comprehensive and regularly updated public register to be maintained by Romania’s gambling regulator, ONJN.

This register would not only list licensed operators and their physical locales but would also mandate daily updates about gaming machines and the requirement for both B2B and B2C licensees to furnish updates to ONJN at the same frequent intervals—noncompliance with which could result in hefty fines ranging from RON100,000 to RON150,000.

Additionally, the stringent limitations pertaining to outdoor gambling advertising that originally applied to a maximum size of 35 square meters now extend to online gambling websites as well. That’s not all; heavy penalties are also proposed for vendors who provide services to unlicensed organizations that cater to Romanian gamblers.

The subject of joint-venture operations also saw clarifications brought forth by two amendments. Where GEO 82/2023 previously established a ‘common control’ prerequisite between licensed and unlicensed joint-venture participants, the draft law now insists that all entities involved in such operations must possess either a Class 1 or Class 2 license, although the common control stipulation appears to be omitted in the new text.

In addition to these detailed amendments, the legislative modifications posit that ONJN should issue further clarification on what constitutes as joint-venture operations within 90 days of the ordinance’s implementation.

The gambling industry in Romania has been the focus of significant regulatory attention since October 2023, evidenced by new measures that include revising licence fees across multiple gambling disciplines—online gambling fees catapulted to €500,000, while lottery and fixed-odds betting both surged to €200,000.

These interventions mark a turning point for gambling regulations in Romania, signaling a concerted effort by the government to bolster controls over gambling practices, with a distinct focus on protecting smaller communities from the proliferation of slot machines and tightening oversights on the industry at large. As the nation awaits President Iohannis’s decision, the amendments reflect a firm stance on the evolving landscape of gambling in Romania.