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Exclusive Interview with Ivan Sagál (Managing Partner of Bird & Bird offices in the Czech Republic and Slovakia)

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While our team is gearing up for our event in Prague, I have managed to catch up with Ivan Sagál, who is a Managing Partner of Bird & Bird offices in the Czech Republic and Slovakia. You can meet Ivan in person by attending the second edition of Prague Gaming Summit which will be held on the 29th of March at Andel’s by Vienna House Prague. You can find more details here.

With this occasion, I would also like to thank you for following my interview series and for sharing these information with your colleagues and partners. If you would like to be featured in an upcoming interview, please send me an e-mail to reka.szalo@europeangaming.eu and I will happily get back to you!

Thank you very much for accepting our invitation and answering the questions. You have more than 20 years of experience in the commercial, corporate and financial law, advising clients from across a number of sectors including lottery & gaming, telecommunications, media & entertainment and financial services. Why did you choose the gaming industry?

Ivan: It is an interesting question. If answered lightly, it is rather that the gaming industry chose me than the other way round. One of my main areas of focus since the beginning of my career has always been the transactional work – that is helping international and local companies expand their business through acquisitions, joint ventures, strategic commercial contracts and various other forms of business deals, as well as in getting the necessary funding for those deals. For many years, companies with business interests in the gaming industry have been among my clients, and naturally, when you want to provide a high-quality expert advice in a transaction involving a gaming business, you need to understand the strategic commercial issues that gaming industry is facing as well as the regulatory legal framework. And when you initially get this insight into the industry, it is just logical you keep yourself abreast of subsequent industry developments (whether they relate to business, technology or regulation) as you never know when another gaming client would be seeking your support based on positive references from your previous clients.

The company you work at, Bird & Bird is a leading global law firm with a strong focus on the businesses sectors where digitalization and technology plays a key role, including gaming industry. What is the focus on in your work at the company; what are the key values of this company?

Ivan: One of the main strategy pillars of Bird & Bird has always been excellence in client service achieved through a strong sector focus. We believe that what differentiates the top legal advisors from the good ones is their deep understanding of the particular industry sector in which their client operates which must be in addition to their excellent legal skills. Many of our lawyers have additional professional background. This is thanks to their previous career in the particular industry or thanks to their additional technical education. Another key element of our strategy is our international reach, meaning that when clients come to us through any of our international offices, they get the same level of service, whether in terms of project management, legal expertise or the sector knowledge. We achieved that through a strong emphasis on the ‘one firm’ approach in internal procedures, knowledge sharing as well as cross-border client projects.

Please tell us more about the services the company offers especially those which are connected to gaming, gambling.

Ivan: Bird & Bird is a full service global law firm, providing advice in all main areas of business law, including Corporate/M&A, Banking & Finance, Dispute Resolution, Employment, Intellectual Property, Privacy & Data Protection, Outsourcing, Real Estate, Tax etc. We have developed an unparalleled expertise in a number of industry sectors, especially those based on, or largely being re-shaped by, the new technologies and digitalization. Naturally, gaming industry is at the forefront of this change, given its rapid development towards the digital era, and we help gaming companies adopting to new regulatory challenges as well as expanding their reach to new markets. This involves advising in all aspects of licensing procedures (whether in setting up businesses or updating licensing scope due to new legislative changes), sorting out ad hoc regulatory issues (whether due to the probes or inspections by the authorities or new business ideas crossing the regulatory borderline), analyzing and outlining solutions in situations where several other regulatory frameworks overlap with gaming regulation (such as marketing and advertising rules, data protection/GDPR issues, payment services regulation under the PSD2 directive etc.), as well as all forms of transactional support – acquisitions, joint ventures, strategic commercial contracts, new technology deployments etc.

You have more than 20 years of experience in the business. Will you please tell your opinion about the European gaming industry and also about the gaming industry of the Czech Republic?

Ivan: In my view the gaming and betting industry as a whole is one of the fastest-changing industry sectors of the last decade. I am fascinated by the speed of this change, which to a large extent is due to a rapid development of new technologies and moving the user experience into the online world. What this brings, of course, is a totally new perspective for the national regulators, who historically have been very much used to control the domestic playgrounds tightly without giving much consideration to what was happening elsewhere in the world. With the digitalization of the business and the online environment, the visible borderlines are suddenly gone and of course the largest international players are somehow disrupting the status quo in smaller markets. When you add to the mixture the general principle of freedom to provide services under EU legislation and on the other hand the commonly accepted risks of unregulated (or under-regulated) gaming or betting on the society, plus the difficulties of the tax authorities to track or allocate the income from such online activities based on its geographical source, it is clear that everyone involved is facing many uncertainties. I still see, however, that in general the industry is doing well, whether Europe-wide or in our country, so apparently it is possible to adapt to the challenge and live well.

Last year the government of Czech Republic planned to restrict online bonuses and free bets, because they found alleged links between these promotions and problem gambling. What is the situation now concerning this issue?

Ivan: It is not that much about imposing new restrictions through e.g. a legislation amendment, but rather about a narrower vs. wider interpretation of the existing provisions of the new Czech gaming law by the regulator (Ministry of Finance). It is true that the regulator has issued a standpoint to certain forms of bonuses and free bets from the perspective of compliance with the general rules of Czech gaming law. This has been issued in August last year, so it is relatively fresh and is yet to be tested in the potential administrative proceedings (or later court proceedings) in a particular case. Also, it has to be mentioned that the standpoint does not automatically mark all forms of bonuses as illegal, it rather analyses the rationale and nature of the particular bonus in the light of legislation provisions and generally divides these bonuses in three categories – generally allowed, allowed if included in the pre-approved gaming plan or disallowed. However, the standpoint is not a generally binding law but rather just the guidance, and as such may be changed or overcome in the future.

How did this new situation, the restrictions affect the Czech gambling industry and what would be the solution for the future of this sector in your country?

Ivan: As already mentioned, the new Czech gaming law definitely changed the landscape of the industry locally, and generally imposed additional requirements on the compliance functions of all market players. Based on my initial observation, however, it definitely did not ”kill” the market (as was feared by many players before the enactment of the law) and it is still too fresh to analyze its deeper impacts on the industry as well as the society. In my view, however, the future of the Czech gambling would be very much inter-linked with whatever developments in more advanced jurisdictions (especially within the EU), both with respect to the further technology and digitalization development, as well as regulatory framework (including more unified interpretation and application of the general regulatory principles).

To meet Ivan in person, make sure you register and attend Prague Gaming Summit 2018, held on the 29th of March at Andel’s by Vienna House Prague.

Interviewee profile:

Ivan Sagál is a Managing Partner of Bird & Bird offices in the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Bird & Bird is a leading global law firm with a strong focus on the businesses sectors where digitalization and technology plays a key role, including gaming industry.

Ivan has more than 20 years of experience in the commercial, corporate and financial law, advising clients from across a number of sectors including lottery & gaming, telecommunications, media & entertainment and financial services.

His team has been actively involved in advising various gaming companies from market leading national lotteries and gambling multinationals to small peer-2-peer gambling startups on a broad range of legal issues including gaming regulatory and licensing matters, legality of advertising of gaming products, data protection, compliance, regulatory aspects of consumer protection, competition, commercial, and transactional matters.

Ivan is a member of the Czech and Slovak Bar.


Source: European Gaming Media and Events

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Russian Online Casinos Supply the Donbass Separatists

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Russian Online Casinos Supply the Donbass SeparatistsReading Time: 1 minute

Pro-Russian separatist groups of the Donbass War (Eastern Ukraine) receive material funds from illegal gambling business, states a recent article published in the Russian Sobesednik magazine. According to article, part of the illegal profits of the online casinos is used to finance the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.

As reported by GC Alor analysts, the black turnover of these Russian online casinos is around 200 billion RUR (2,725,065,200.00 Euro). The Majority of these online casinos are registered in foreign administrations, like Azino777 being registered in Curacao.

As experts say, many online casinos are physically based in Ukraine, where the legislation is slightly more loyal than Russian. It is allowed, for example, to develop gaming software for third-party customers. Lucky Labs company, which is linked to the online casino “Vulcan”, operates in Ukraine as software developer.

According to the Security Service of Ukraine, which conducted searches at the office of the company lately, Lacky Labs also controls the websites of CasinoX and Joycasino. The company’s office is big. It is a 4-storey building designed for 150 people. There is also a basement area where there is a kitchen and a dining room, a gym.

Lucky Labs was founded by two Russians. Because of the sanctions imposed by the President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko, now they are not allowed to enter the country. However, Lucky Labs continues to exist. Now the company is registered by an Ukrainian citizen.

If some of the profits of illegal online casino go to pro-Russian patriotic purposes, it becomes clear why Roskomnadzor does not block their Internet addresses. The correspondent of “Sobesednik” managed to access the mentioned online casinos without any obstacles, using no VPN or “mirrors”.

 

Source: sobesednik.ru


Source: European Gaming Media and Events

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Play’n GO ‘Slots’ Into 1st Place!

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Play'n GO 'Slots' Into 1st Place!Reading Time: 2 minutes

Company celebrates EGR victory with Slot Provider of the Year Award

 

June 22, 2018 – Play’n GO were honoured at the EGR B2B Awards on Wednesday (20thJune) as they took home the highly coveted Slot Provider of the Year Award, beating out some strong competition.

The awards, held in London’s prestigious Hurlingham Club, “celebrates and rewards the very best service suppliers in the online gaming industry” and Play’n GO were honoured to have been nominated in numerous categories including Innovation in Mobile and Best Multi-Channel Supplier.

Play’n GO were recognised for their remarkable offerings in the slot market over the past year including innovative games such as Viking Runecraft, Sweet Alchemy and Moon Princessas well as many other popular titles.

CEO Johan Törnqvist was delighted to pick up the win, and believes it is a reflection of the company’s hard work.

“It’s an honour to pick up such a sought-after award, especially with the level of competition in the category. As a company we work hard to put out the finest, most entertaining, offering to our partners in the market, and winning this award is a testament to that. We have consistently been recognised in the industry for the innovative products we release and it’s our job not to rest on our laurels, but to continue innovating”

 

About Play’n GO

Play’n GO is an award-winning supplier of high quality gaming content to many of the world’s leading casino brands.  Its genuine omni-channel solution can be tailored to suit the needs of individual online and land-based partners, regardless of geographical, regulatory, or market-specific requirements. Its games are developed in HTML5 to provide an enhanced user experience on all devices and operating systems. These are complemented by superior back-office administration tools which provide expansive reporting and marketing capabilities, ensuring operators are equipped to provide the ultimate gaming experience. The supplier’s extensive portfolio was recently recognised by the award of the IGA Slot Provider of the Year 2017 title. Play’n GO currently hold offices in Sweden, Malta, Hungary, and the UK. Please visit http://www.playngo.com for more details.


Source: European Gaming Media and Events

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Poland: Accepted Changes In Taxes, Including Gambling

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Poland: Accepted Changes In Taxes, Including GamblingReading Time: 1 minute

Poland’s lower house (Sejm) has voted down five Senate amendments to a comprehensive amendment to several tax bills, including gambling.

The adopted amendments may be applied retroactively, which is to the income earned from January 1 2018.
Gamblers will be treated in a uniform manner after the changes.

Adopted by the Sejm on May 10th of this year extensive amendment to the Personal Income Tax Act (PIT), the Corporate Income Tax Act (CIT) and the Act on flat-rate income tax on certain revenues earned by natural persons; that all winnings on machines will be exempt from PIT, the tax relief for creators will be extended to the next creative professions, the real estate income tax will be larger. This applies to provisions adopted last autumn and effective from January 1st 2018.

Unlike the regulations adopted in autumn, the amendment assumes for example, that participants of legal gambling will be treated in a uniform manner. Regardless of whether the games are organized by casino operators or a company performing a state monopoly in this area, which would be Totalizator Sportowy. In line with the provisions changed by the Sejm and approved by the Senate on Thursday, winnings in slot machine games, card games, dice games and cylindrical games – regardless of which legally operating entities organize them – will be exempt from personal income tax.

In the remaining scope, the rules of taxing winnings (in numerical games, cash lotteries, mutual bets, etc.) are to remain unchanged in relation to the provisions currently in force. Pursuant to the amendment of October 27th 2017, winnings in gambling are subject to a l0% PIT tax on winning if their one-time value of winning exceeds PLN 2,280 (528 Euro).


Source: European Gaming Media and Events

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