In early July the government of Romania published a list of 48 online betting operators it had blacklisted. Now, according to reports in major niche media, Bet365 and bwin.party have been added to the list. Both companies had paid “back-taxes” dating up to 5 years before a licensing regimen was established and had received provisional licenses to operate.
Bet365 subsidiaries Hillside Sports and Hillside Gaming’s operating rights were canceled on October 13th with an order issued by Romania’s gambling regulator, Oficiul National Pentru Jocuri de Noroc (ONJN). igamingbusiness announced a day earlier that bwin.party had lost their rights as well.
Although bwin paid about €8m, and Bet365 around €30m, according to the government both companies continued to operate between the end of a grace period that ended on September 10 and an official starting date of October 10.
In announcing the actions against Bet365, the ONJN said, “Please note that by the no. 2723 decision published on 13.10.2015, the right of Hillside Gaming LP and Hillside Sports LP jointly offering gambling services by their gaming platform accessible via the website bet365.com has been cancelled. The company has been warned not to accept players who access their site from Romanian IPs or Romanian players under the law from this day forward and to remit all funds of the players that have registered a game account.
“We warned the players that they have 30 days to withdraw all amounts held in accounts of the operator, after which all access to the site will be restricted.”
The ONJN also warned players that they could be fined if they continue to give blacklisted sites their custom.
Many companies, including William Hill opted to abandon the market rather than cough up the so-called retroactive taxes, which some have referred to as a shake-down as there was no taxing mechanism in place before May of this year. In order to apply for a license after the new gambling framework went into law, companies were expected to “settle up” with the government by tendering 20% of revenues made since 2009.
Bet365, bwin.party, PokerStars, 888 Holdings, Sportingbet, Betfair, and Unibet among others decided to play ball based on potential profits from the lucrative market.
Others are still operating in a black market, which many industry pundits prefer to refer to as “gray”. According to the ONJN more than 40,000 Romanians still access unlicensed gambling sites.