Slovakia to open online casino market to int’l operators

Slovakia is preparing to open its online casino market to internationally licensed operators.

Last week, Slovakia’s Ministry of Finance unveiled draft legislation that would revamp the country’s existing gambling laws, including allowing international firms to seek online casino licenses and scrapping the monopoly currently held by state-run operator Tipos.

The Ministry framed its legislative revamp as seeking greater consumer protections for both land-based and online gamblers, while responding to “trends in digitalization” not foreseen in the current law. The Ministry claims to have studied regulators’ approaches in Denmark, Sweden, Romania and the Czech Republic in crafting its new rules, which could take effect by March 2019.

While Tipos would retain its monopoly over online lotteries, bingo and raffles, other online casino products – including poker – will be open to international firms that apply for licenses. Online casino revenue would be taxed at a rate of 23% (locally licensed online sportsbook operators currently pay 27%).

The Ministry warned that online operators that continue to accept Slovak action without a new license would face legal action. The Ministry introduced an online gambling domain blacklist last summer that now features a who’s who of the European industry. Local internet service providers can face fines of €500k for refusing to comply with government blocking orders.

The Ministry seeks the formation of a dedicated gambling regulatory body, which would be funded by levies on gaming operators. This regulator would be granted access to operators’ servers to more effectively monitor compliance with the new rules.

As for land-based changes, the Ministry claims its previous decision to boost the maximum number of gaming machines in retail shops from five to 12 helped reduce the overall number of shops offering gaming products. The Ministry now proposes to boost that maximum to 15 machines in the hopes of further reducing the shop count.

Retail gaming would now be limited to a single operator per room. Local communities would also be allowed to impose shorter operating hours and mandate specific days on which these shops must be closed, provided the total number of days doesn’t exceed 12 per year. Last year, Slovakia’s capital Bratislava announced a phased ban on retail gaming operations save for sports betting and lotteries.