Austrian Finance Minister Calls for Independent Gambling Regulator
posted at: 16 March 2020
In a recent TV interview, the new Finance Minister of Austria Gernot Blümel, revealed that the country might establish a new independent gambling regulator. He said that he wanted to “untangle” the functions of the Treasury and appoint a regulator in charge of licensing and monitoring the licensees serving Austrian residents.
Currently, both online and offline casino services are overseen by the Ministry of Finance. As for sports betting, each Austrian jurisdiction has its own laws.
Casinos Austria has been holding a dominant position on the market since 2016 when the licenses of the other providers were revoked. A few months ago, the company was in the centre of a scandal related to the appointment of CFO Peter Sildo and the gambling companies that would be allowed to serve players in the capital Vienna.
Sildo had shares in Novomatic, a company that held a stake in Casinos Austria and had ambitions to serve Viennese players. Sildo’s position was believed to ease the process of license acquisition for Novomatic. As a result, the Austrian Association for Betting and Gambling explicitly stated its desire for an urgent reconsideration of the situation and an end of the monopoly.
Novomatic then agreed to sell its stake to Sazka Group. However, the deal achieved the opposite of the desired effect as Sazka already held a 38% stake in Casinos Austria and the acquisition of the Novomatic share gave it a significant majority over the Österreichische Beteiligungs, which holds a stake of 33%. The fact that a foreign company is the majority shareholder in Casinos Austria raised concerns about tax revenue and job losses.
Minister Blümel revealed that he was planning to negotiate an “Austrian package” and secure a commitment from Sazka that jobs an tax revenue would not be affected.