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By Mihnea Popescu-Grisogono
► It’s been almost 8 years since the last issue of our magazine. How would you describe this activity in a few words?
How quickly time passes!!
For me, these 8 years have been both beautiful and demanding. From that year on, I started to think that through the experience gained in the field of gambling I can do more for myself and for this field. Thus, I started to offer business and management consulting for the organization and operation activity. It was not difficult for me to carry out your activities within Newton Slots, I knew a lot of the slot machine companies and I identified the development needs in organizing the activity.
► Because you mentioned Newton, in what relationship did you stay with your former employer, Dragoș Buriu?
I remained in a very good relationship with Dragoș, I consider him my friend and I hope I think the same. I thank her for the beautiful period spent and the experience gained in his company and I consider that I also put my shoulder to its development in the 7 years of activity.
► How has the gambling industry changed in these 8 years?
First of all, the legislation has changed. In 2014, an EMERGENCY ORDINANCE No. 77/2009 of June 24, 2009 on the organization and operation of gambling and in 2016, Government Decision no. 111 for the approval of the Methodological Norms for the implementation of the Government Emergency Ordinance no. 77/2009 on the organization and operation of gambling and on amending and supplementing Government Decision no. 298/2013 regarding the organization and functioning of the National Office for Gambling, for the modification of the Government Decision no. 870/2009 for the approval of the Methodological Norms for the application of the Government Emergency Ordinance no. 77/2009 and for the abrogation of the Government Decision no. 870/2009 on the organization and operation of gambling. Basically, since then, there has been a real regulation of the activity of gambling in our country. Several orders of the ONJN President followed, which regulated the application of their provisions.
The legislation is very complex, many new rules have been established regarding the organization of the activity, with many declarative obligations and very high sanctions for non-compliance with legal obligations.
Without a very good organization, without rigorous policies and processes of measures and control of the activity, it is impossible to carry out the activity of gambling exploitation.
Secondly, new slot machine manufacturers have appeared on the market, it is an amazing evolution.
Thus, the organizers of gambling must be constantly connected to the news of the market in order to offer the best services to its customers.
Thirdly, it is very important to regulate the activity of online gambling, a challenge for the gambling industry in Romania and for those in the land base.
Looking back, I realize that there has been a huge change in this area.
► What kind of consultancy you offer to the organizers?
First of all, they establish the processes, their succession, the organization of the activity so that they have permanent control and legality in the activity. I consider that the result of my work is reflected in the fact that the companies that benefit from my help do not have any problems with ONJN controls.
My clients have understood that if they have a good organization of the activity and the documents that need to be prepared are declared on time and correctly, their business is safe from this point of view.
It is a demanding activity, I have to be in constant contact with my clients so as not to omit any details of their organization and operation.
I like the activity I carry out, every day a new challenge arises and I know that if I do not analyze correctly the requirements of the clients in order to offer them the best solutions, the consequences can be serious, with sanctions from ONJN or clients.
Always in the first place are the “players” and that’s why we focus our activity on their safety, on the pleasure of playing in high standards, in beautiful locations, offering them attractive games and jack-pot systems, promotional campaigns.
► List some of the issues you and your clients were facing during pandemic.
I would not be able to describe all the pages of the magazine during this period.
It is well known that it was and still is very difficult for them. We had periods of total suspension of the activity in which the legislator, correctly ordered that the fees related to the operating authorizations are not due.
Land-based gambling companies, like all taxpayers, also benefited from simplified staggering, unemployment benefits for their employees, and we hoped things would get better.
They have had and still have periods of suspension of activity on time periods, restrictions on the number of customers in the locations, periods in which the fees related to operating permits are paid in full in advance. This is a very big problem, because I believe that by paying a tax you have the right to carry out the activity and it is not fair to later restrict the activity without offering compensation for taxes depending on the restrictions.
I have collaborated throughout this period with the Associations of professionals in the field and I know that meetings have taken place at the Ministry of Finance together with the National Office for Gambling, and I personally made addresses to the Budget – Finance Commission of the Romanian Senate. they were left with no results or answers. We did not ask for facilities, as was said in the press, we asked for our situation to be analyzed and for the correct solution of the problems to be arranged.
I can honestly say that there are gambling companies that have not been able to continue their activity.
During this period we also restrict the access of players to locations, so only vaccinated people have access, and this clearly leads to a reduction in revenue.
Authorization and defect fees are fees, set based on the number of gaming devices operated, fees that are declared and paid in advance. It is very difficult to anticipate or be able to make a business plan in these conditions, the organizers of land base gambling are in a very difficult situation at the moment.
The professional associations proposed to the representatives of the Ministry of Finance that the payment of taxes can be made monthly, in advance and/or to be calculated as a percentage of the receipts.
I understand that it was requested that the National Gambling Office present a situation of what this percentage would mean compared to a previous year, a situation that they did not present.
I sent to the associations such a situation, reported from the data of my clients, it is not impossible to achieve because the organizers are required to submit the Monthly Income Statement of gambling organizers and the data contained in this statement and could be done at the request of the Ministry of Finance.
The conclusion is that even today we have no change in the way taxes are declared and paid, and it is becoming increasingly difficult for the organizers to cover these expenses.
► What are the issues you face most often in your business?
I dream of the day when the ONJN will digitize the activity it carries out in relation to the licensed companies in the field of gambling.
I believe that a change in legislation is needed and I am sure that the process of submitting documentation on obtaining licenses and authorizations as well as the submission of supporting documents for the activity can be greatly improved.
It is an enormous work on the part of both the organizers and the ONJN employees, mountains of documents still bearing the stamp and handwritten signature.
We are currently sending hundreds of gigabytes of documents to the registry office for which we do not receive a registration number. We actually print the e-mail sent and this is proof of transmission.
The files for obtaining the operating license often contain several hundred tabs that we have to number and record in an outline.
During this period, as long as the alert status lasts, we benefit from the provisions of law 55/2020, so the operating permits, gambling organizer licenses and metrological checks are valid for the duration of the alert status and within 90 days of at the end of it, they must be renewed. I am hopefully ending the state of alert but also worried about the day when the organizers will submit hundreds of bookshelves to obtain the new documents.
► What are the challenges for gambling during this period?
Last year, on June 17, 2021, the Order of the President of ONJN no. 86 on amending and supplementing the annex to the Order of the President of the National Office for Gambling no. 404/2020 on the approval of the Minimum Technical Conditions for verifying the means of play.
The main challenge for the organizers will be to bring all the means of play to the standard of the new technical conditions or to withdraw them from operation, where this is not possible within a maximum of 24 months from the date of entry into force of this Order.
Surely this process will be costly for slot machine gambling companies and will add another financial burden.
If we analyze the situations generated by the pandemic corroborated with the legislative novelties, the conclusion is that the most traditional slot machines were and will be affected.
The second challenge is the fulfillment of the duties of gambling organizers which, in accordance with Law 129/2019, Art. 5 – (1) letter d) are defined – reporting entities and have reporting obligations in relation to prevention and control money laundering and terrorist financing.
These obligations were regulated by the Order of the President of the National Office for Gambling no. 370 / 07.01.2021 for the approval of the Instructions on preventing and combating money laundering and terrorist financing in the field of gambling in Romania.
I am convinced that gambling companies will fulfill their legal obligations and prove that this industry is an evolving one.
In my work, following the participation in the training organized by the National Office for Combating Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing, in conjunction with a good knowledge of gambling, I provide advice on drafting the necessary documents and training staff to fulfill legal obligations. which belong to them as reporting entities.
Thus, economic operators in the field of gambling must apply a procedure to combat money laundering and terrorist financing, according to ONJN Order 370/2021.
OBLIGATIONS OF GAMBLING PROVIDERS
1. Carry out their own risk assessments and establish internal policies and rules to combat money laundering. The following are considered risk indicators as a result of the instructions:
• Complicity of employers;
• Player lending;
• Existence of cash payments;
• Anonymity of customers;
• Granting fictitious earnings;
• Lack of customer awareness policies;
• Participation in games through intermediaries;
2. Establish internal policies and rules, internal control mechanisms that include at least the following elements:
• Measures to know the clientele;
• Mechanisms for determining suspicious transactions;
• Keeping records;
• Procedures for reporting and prompt provision of data to authorities;
• Applicable internal control measures;
• Measures to protect its own staff who apply anti-money laundering procedures;
• Staff hiring and checking standards;
• Procedures for drawing up and keeping records and all documents and procedures for accessing these documents;
• Internal self-verification processes;
• Other procedures required by these instructions;
3. Carry out an independent audit. Gambling operators that in the last financial year exceed two of the following three criteria: total assets 16,000,000 lei, turnover 32,000,000 lei, average number of employees 50, have the obligation to perform an independent audit at least once two years of anti-money laundering rules and procedures. This audit is not a financial audit for auditing financial statements, but an audit of anti-money laundering procedures.
4. Designate a responsible person. Gambling providers designate one or more people to implement internal anti-money laundering policies and procedures. In the selection process, the necessary experience, specific knowledge of gambling and professional reputation must be pursued. Economic operators in the field of gambling must keep the selection and evaluation documentation, respectively regular training at least 5 years after the termination of the contractual relationship.
The procedure punctually develops the following aspects:
a) Effective measures to know the clientele;
b) Monitoring gambling participants;
c) Establishing indicators for detecting suspicious transactions;
d) Reporting obligation;
e) Ways of processing personal data;
f) Communication of information to ONJN;
g) Various forms.
► What do you think would help gambling organizers to continue their business safely and more easily both legally and organizationally?
I’m glad you asked me that question. I believe that through my work, I have enough experience to give opinions to improve my work.
First of all, we would like the National Gambling Office to allow the organizers or their representatives physical access to the Registry.
Access has been banned since March 16. Given that all public institutions allow physical access, with the logical restrictions imposed in order to combat the spread of the new coronavirus, it would have been helpful for us to have access in this way for the registration of documents.
I believe that a review of gambling legislation is needed.
First of all, we want to improve the procedures for drawing up the documents.
We still physically deposit hundreds, thousands of documents accompanied by stamps, when submitting proof of payment of the authorization fee requires a bank statement with the visa of the bank, which puts us on the road unnecessarily and we often run into the refusal of banks to visa them. these documents state that they are valid without signature and stamp.
The statement of account from the Treasury which proves the constitution of the guarantee for covering the risk of non-payment of the obligations towards the general consolidated budget can be requested in the Virtual Private Space, with digital signature.
This document is not accepted by the ONJN without the visa and signature of the Treasury.
I believe that we, as an industry, can adapt to the new facilities of technology.
We have the best gaming software, the best monitoring systems, but we still use rail files, handwritten signatures and stamps, dozens of documents to copy on the walls and devices.
In the files for obtaining the operation authorization, we submit each time, according to the Notice sent by the ONJN, the copies “according to the original” of some documents issued by the ONJN or other state institutions.
Starting with 01.01.2022, LAW 267 came into force for the completion of the Government Emergency Ordinance no. 41/2016 on the establishment of simplification measures at the level of the central public administration and for the modification and completion of some normative acts.
Thus, (1) It is prohibited for public institutions and specialized bodies of the central public administration to request natural or legal persons, in order to resolve requests for the provision of a public service, copies of notices or other documents that have been issued by the institutions. public bodies or specialized bodies of the central public administration.
I believe that if there is an open dialogue between the authorities and the organizers, many of the problems encountered by both parties can be resolved.
► What are your wishes for this year?
My biggest wish is to be able to make available to the organizers the computer program for the management of the exploitation activity, a program I have been working on for about a year.
Because I have often encountered organizational problems, ignorance of declarative obligations, staff fluctuations at the level of operations departments, or lack of communication between departments, I thought that a computer program would be very helpful for any organizer, regardless of the number of means of play or locations in which it operates.
Thus, the organizers of gambling will have the certainty that their activity is constantly monitored, correctly, all documents will be in one safe place, they will know when it is necessary to update them and they will no longer have problems in omitting the declaration and registration of documents .
I admit that I am a perfectionist and that is why I want my product to be of a very high standard.
And… if my computer program can also help in the relationship between ONJN and the organizers, I would be even more fulfilled professionally.
I wish for better collaboration between the organizers of gambling and ONJN, more frequent meetings between the Office and their representatives in order to identify the real problems in the industry and to improve the activity.
I would like to update the gambling legislation in order to simplify the procedures for obtaining licenses and operating permits safely.
I want to digitize ONJN’s business in relation to licensed gambling companies.
I would like the Prevention Law 270/2017 to apply in this area as well:
Art. 3. – (1) All public authorities / institutions with attributions of control, ascertainment and sanctioning of contraventions have the obligation, corresponding to the domains under their responsibility, that, within 3 months from the date of entry into force of this law, develop and disseminate documentary materials and guides and allocate sections on the website specifically dedicated to public information on:
a) the legislation in force regarding the finding and sanctioning of contraventions;
b) the rights and obligations of these public authorities/institutions in carrying out the activities of ascertaining the contraventions and applying the sanctions for the contraventions, as well as the rights and obligations of the persons who are subject to these activities;
c) indication, separately, of the contravention facts for which the public authority/institution has competences to ascertain and apply the contravention sanctions, as well as the sanctions and / or other applicable measures.
(2) The public authorities/institutions with control attributions, according to the fields of competence, have the obligation to guide the interested persons in view of a correct and unitary application of the legal provisions.
(3) In carrying out the guidance activity provided in par. (2), the public authorities/institutions with control attributions have the obligation:
a) to develop guidance and control procedures to be used by all persons competent to carry out the control activity;
b) to display on their own sites the high frequency cases and the guidance solutions issued in these cases, as well as the procedures elaborated according to letter a);
c) that in each control activity to actively exercise the guiding role of the controlled persons, providing, according to the procedures, the indications and guidelines necessary to avoid in the future the violation of the legal provisions. The fulfillment of this obligation will be explicitly mentioned in the control report, showing the indications and guidelines provided.
(4) The central public administration authority with national coordination responsibilities in the field of business environment has the obligation that, within 6 months from the date of entry into force of this law, to develop and operate a portal dedicated to centralized provision of online services and resources in order to inform regarding the aspects provided in par.(1).
I would like the National Office for Gambling to update the official website as often as necessary because I consider it a very useful mean of communication.
I have more wishes: to be healthy, to return to a normal life and to be happy every day of our lives!