Unified front against the pandemic of illegality
Eca, El and Wta make an alliance to fight unlicensed online gaming: the aim is to raise awareness among European and national politicians about its risks for both States and consumers.
European casinos closed, in large numbers, for Covid-19, also in this 2021, whose beginning luckily coincided with the start of the vaccination campaign on a global scale.
An emergency for companies, their workers and their properties, whether public (this is the case of Italy, where also their management companies are public) or private, which see their sources of income and, in the long run, even of survival, almost entirely disappear. But it is an emergency that must not make us forget the other fronts to work on and that indeed, due to the lack of a “land-based” gaming offer, become even more urgent. Above all, the fight against illegal online gaming, that is to say those “dot coms”, as we know them in Italy, which are aimed at a national customer, despite they don’t have the authorizations required, with heavy negative consequences both for the public coffers, which are deprived of important income, and for legal operators (that, on the contrary, pay taxes), but also as regards the protection of the final consumer, ie the player.
The European Casino Association got on the frontline, creating an “alliance” with two other highly representative associations at European and world level, European Lotteries and World Tote Association, in order to support the upcoming Digital Services Act package of the European Commission, which aims to modernize the rules to fight illegal online contents, even when they concern gaming.
The general secretary of the Eca, the Austrian Hermann Pamminger, explains the aims and initiatives of the newly formed Alliance Against Illegal Gambling.
“The Alliance Against Illegal Gambling (Aaig) is a key initiative for the licensed and regulated gambling industry in Europe. We firmly believe that joining forces with other associations representing the licensed European gaming industry is extremely helpful to create awareness for the illegal gambling that is going on in EU member states. By illegal, we refer to gaming that is offered to consumers in countries where the operator is not in possession of a national gaming licence. It is important to get this message across to European and national policymakers even more strongly. Protecting the consumers and steering them towards legal gambling should be a top priority, and we believe the Alliance will help in this regard”.
Has Covid and the resctrictions imposed to the businesses and individual people influenced the phenomenon of illegal online gaming?
“Undoubtedly, during the lockdown many players who could not visit real casinos operations switched to online. Many of which for the first time. The online environment does not provide the safety and control that land-based casinos offer, and an unaware player can easily fall into the traps of the illegal market. In online a lot of data is tracked and available, but on the other side, one never knows who is really sitting on the other side of the internet connection, what he or she is up to and in what mental condition this person is”.
What should national states do to combat it? Does the advertising ban on legal gaming risk fuelling the business of illegal gaming?
“The most valuable business asset of a company that is working in the field of gaming is its operating licence issued by the country where they offer their gaming products and services. Nationally licensed operators do comply with national laws and regulations because otherwise its gaming licence will be revoked by the national authorities. Operators without the necessary national licence will, in the worst case, not care about any national laws and regulations. Therefore, any laws that are made in the best intention to protect consumers are also affecting competitive conditions, mostly favouring those online providers without the necessary national gaming licence”.
Land-based casino sector has experienced a dramatic 2020, with most European countries having imposed one or even two or three lockdowns. What are the expectations for 2021?
“The situation is still uncertain. Several countries are already re-entering severe lockdowns, for some it is currently hard to predict when operations will be able to reopen. We are confident that thanks to the vaccine, the situation will slowly but steadily get back to a new normal”.
What public measures and what internal tools land-based casinos need to recover, in your opinion?
“As many other sectors, the land-based casino industry and its 70.000 employees throughout Europe were helped by the national pandemic relive programs. We are very thankful for that. The industry has and is using the time to install proper hygiene concepts along with staff training to ensure a safe operation once reopening. Some are doing renovations and redesigns and other improvements for which there never seemed to be enough time in the past. Casinos are part of the tourism industry and for that, it would be most welcome if the European Union and its member states would create and implement a plan that would restart the tourism industry”.
How will attitudes and tastes of players change after the pandemic?
“The pandemic has maybe an influenced players’ preferences and behaviour for the time being. But we strongly believe that former casino guests are very much looking forward that casinos are reopening. Although many consumers currently try gambling online, playing in a real casino is a completely different experience and most importantly a social experience that our guests are currently missing out on”.
Has the pandemic left us something good, on a general and casino level?
“The pandemic has been really hard on all the 900 casinos of the members of the Eca, but it also made us as an association realize how important it is to come together in times of crisis. Our members regularly met and meet virtually and the Eca became an international exchange platform for real-time advice on how to best adapt to the challenges of this difficult times”.