Government action is a normal part of the discussion in our frequent posts about online gambling and cryptocurrency. Unfortunately, governments around the world are involved in both areas to an extent that some in our industry find uncomfortable. Nonetheless, it is what it is.
Looking around the world, it is a mixed bag for the online gambling industry. We have put together a general roundup of recent government actions important enough to make the news. In some places, governments are openly embracing online gambling more than they have in the past. In other places, the restrictions are getting ever tighter.
More Liberal Rules in Slovakia
Gambling laws in Slovakia have long favored local monopolies that restrict competition and limit opportunities. All of that is about to change thanks to new rules developed by parliament. Now it is a matter of seeing whether the new rules will be signed into law by Slovakia's president.
Assuming that is the case, the biggest change will be observed in the international market. New rules will allow international gambling operators to apply for licenses in Slovakia. License applications will be accepted beginning March 1, 2018. If all goes well, the government should start issuing licenses by July. The only downside is that approved licenses will not be effective until July 2020.
Getting a license in Slovakia will be expensive. Operators will pay roughly €3 million for either an online or brick-and-mortar casino license. Should they apply for both licenses simultaneously, the government is willing to knock €1 million off the total price. Single licenses will be valid for 10 years; combination licenses will start with a five-year limit and the option to extend another five years should an operator decide to do so.
New Licenses in Sweden
Gambling operators with eyes on Sweden have been looking forward to the government issuing a new round of promised gambling licenses. Things finally got underway on 30 November 2018. News sources say that 16 operators received licenses that will officially go into effect on 1st January 2019. Some 95 operators applied for the limited licenses, 70 of which were online operators.
The new licenses were necessitated by a gambling law passed by the Swedish government earlier in 2018. Like the Slovakian law, Sweden's law sought to bring an end to local monopolies and their choke-hold on the gambling industry. A new environment has been created, opening Sweden to international operators looking to make their online sites available to Swedish gamblers.
If there is a major downside to the new law, it is the fact that the government will be taking a very hard-line stand against unlicensed operators beginning in January 2019. Up until now, unlicensed operations were frowned upon, but no attempt was made to shut them down. That is going to change.
Swedish regulators have also said that more changes are on the way. They intend to completely reorganize the gambling industry in that country in order to make it fair and guarantee it isn't the source of criminal activity.
Banning the Internet in South Africa
The South African government has been wrestling with online gambling for years. Online gambling was made illegal there in 2016, though the national government has felt powerless to actually stop it since then. South African leaders have since created an amended bill that would, among other things, attempt to bring an end to online gambling by going after winners.
The good news for gamblers in South Africa is that leaders cannot agree on whether the amended bill should move forward or not. If the bill fails, South Africa's Department of Trade and Industry chief director said he is open to the idea of getting rid of online gambling by banning the internet altogether.
Though it sounds extreme, there is at least a slim possibility of the internet going dark in South Africa. So the question that has to be answered is this: which is the lesser of two evils? While we do not take a position one way or the other, it would still be possible to gamble online in South Africa even if the amended bill passes. There are workarounds, including gambling with cryptocurrency.
New Online Regulations in Buenos Aires
Until recently, online gambling was completely unregulated in Buenos Aires, Argentina. That has now changed thanks to a bill that recently passed in the provincial lower house. The bill, primarily a tax bill written as part of the 2019 budget, creates two new gambling taxes and puts minimal regulations on online operators.
Only one of the taxes applies to online gambling. Online operators will pay a flat fee along with 15% of their gross revenues for total amount equal to no less than 2% of gross profits. The other tax is one on slot machines at brick-and-mortar gambling venues. It is assessed as a 2% tax on all winning bets.
Proceeds from both taxes will be used to fund education, social assistance, and other general needs of the province. The government expects to raise millions of pesos annually.
An Industry Crackdown in the UK
Back in Europe, the UK's Gambling Commission reported in late November 2018 on an aggressive crackdown of online gambling operators found not in compliance with current regulations. The commission specifically named three operators that "did not have effective safeguards to prevent money laundering and harm to customers." Each of the operators was fined millions of pounds.
Gambling is completely legal in the UK, both online and at traditional casinos and betting shops. It is highly regulated, though. The UK government is extremely strict about everything from money laundering to addressing problem gambling. They have made clear through their most recent crackdown that they intend to continue investigating online operators to make sure all are complying.
A Labor Shortage in Malta
Malta is one of the most attractive markets for the online gambling industry due to its very liberal legal environment. Some of the world's most prolific game developers and casino operators make their home there. And according to the Malta Gaming Authority (MGA), there are not enough skilled workers to meet the needs of all those companies.
The MGA's recently released Skills Gaps Affecting the Remote Gaming Industry in Malta report shows nearly 800 unfilled positions within the Maltese gaming industry. Most of the empty positions relate to game operations, but the industry is also lacking workers in game development, marketing, technology, legal/compliance, finance, and data/analysis.
The skills shortage is both good and bad news for Maltese operators. It is good in the sense that business is booming and they need more workers to keep things running smoothly. It is bad in the sense that a lack of workers makes it much more difficult for them to do what is necessary to keep customers happy.
The Emergence of Bitcoin Gambling
As you can see, it is a mixed bag when it comes to how world governments look at online gambling. Things are going along swimmingly in countries where online gambling is legal or minimally regulated. Things are not so good in other countries that seek to either strictly regulate online gambling or make it illegal altogether.
This mixed bag is one of the things contributing to the emergence of Bitcoin Gambling. As explained earlier, there are ways to get around gambling restrictions. Players use virtual private networks to access sites that are not available where they live, thus circumventing restrictions that were put in place to prevent them from accessing such sites.
They use bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies to make deposits and withdrawals that are nearly impossible to trace. In so doing, they avoid the trouble they would otherwise face by receiving gambling winnings as fiat currency.
In short, Bitcoin Gambling continues to grow because people want the freedom to play their favorite casino games without government interference. And even in places where online gambling is not restricted, bitcoin deposits and withdrawals are perfect for gamblers who do not like the idea of sharing bank or credit card information.
There is little doubt that the gambling environment in some locales will look drastically different just a few months from now. Government regulators are moving as quickly as possible to make sense of their own gambling policies. As such, the next roundup post we eventually do is sure to offer a few surprises.
In the meantime, we urge you to make the most of your opportunities. If gambling is legal where you live, take a look at some of the casinos recommended here on our site. And while you're at it, try playing MegaMoolah.com. It is one of the best slot games on the market thanks to its progressive jackpots.