Austria to form new gambling authority amid regulatory overhaul

Austria’s finance minister Gernot Blümel has announced a far-reaching overhaul of the country’s gambling laws which will focus on player protection controls and transparency.

The overhaul of Austria’s gambling laws will focus on ramping up player protection controls introducing new transparency requirements and the formation of a new supervisory authority.

This comes after Blümel revealed in March 2020 that he aimed to streamline the Treasury’s role.

Austria’s gambling overhaul

Under Blümel’s proposed regulatory overhaul of Austria’s gambling industry will see the formation of a new gambling regulator. The new regulator will have a focus on player protection and ensuring the implementation of new controls on legal and illegal gambling.

At the moment, the Austrian Treasury is responsible for licensing and the enforcement of the country’s gambling regulations, but the new regulator will take over these duties.

The new regulator will also be charged with the responsibility of establishing a national self-exclusion system that covers land-based and online gambling.

The regulator will also be required to set up enforcement activity against unlicensed gambling operators and will have the power to order internet service providers to block access to these sites. Part of this process will involve creating a blacklist of unlicensed websites.

Blümel said: “Player protection is of particular importance, as gambling is a very sensitive area for players, their families and for society, which also carries considerable risks. Players are often affected by addiction and as a consequence confronted with financial, psychological and existential issues.”

Loot boxes in video games are also set to be regulated. Blümel said that loot boxes can have a negative impact on younger gamers and has the potential to lead them into traditional forms of gambling.

Blümel explained that Austria would look to implement a similar regulatory model to Germany which would also see the introduction of monthly limits on deposits and limits on stakes and playtime. These limits will be developed in partnership with gambling addiction experts.

Taxes on the gambling sector will also be raised to ensure that operators contribute to the prevention and treatment of problem gambling. Advertising restrictions will also be tightened and the gambling market will be subject to similar rules imposed on the tobacco industry.

New anti-corruption safeguards

Blümel also outlined the introduction of new anti-corruption measures in the wake of a scandal that involved the Austrian-based gambling company Novomatic, Casinos Austria and several high profile politicians.

Parliament is currently discussing a ban on donations, advertisements and gifts to politicians or political parties from gambling providers, the tobacco industry and arms manufacturers. According to Blümel, this will ensure a higher level of transparency.

The federal licence for video lottery terminals will also be abolished and operators will be required to secure licenses from states in which they operate.

The regulations to pave the way for these changes are expected to be developed by the end of April. From here, the proposed changes will go to parliament which could have the laws passed by Autumn of this year.