Czech Minister pledges exclusion scheme launch in mid-2020
Czech finance minister Alena Schillerová hailed the effect of the country’s 2017 Gambling Act, and revealed that an exclusion register to block a range of individuals - both voluntarily and involuntarily - from gambling would launch next year.
However, the country’s national drug policy coordinator has warned about the increase of online gambling in the Czech Republic, and suggested further controls may be needed.
Speaking at the Czech national gambling conference that took place on 5 November in Prague, Schillerová said that the exclusion register would go launch in mid-2020.
This will not only include players that self-exclude, but also those on welfare, those who are bankrupt, people who have received treatment for gambling addiction as well as players that voluntarily excluded. Anyone listed would be unable to gamble either online or in person.
“We are moving forward in setting up the exclusion register," Schillerová said. "We will publish technical documentation at the turn of this year and we will start testing after the new year so that this register will be operational in mid-2020.”
Schillerová added that the Czech Republic's 2017 gambling act, regulated online gambling in the country for the first time, had been a major success in limiting the ability of black market operators to attract Czech customers.
“The gambling law has changed it all,” Schillerová said. “It opened up the market to foreign operators, which allowed their regulation and proper taxation. It introduced mandatory registration of all online gambling players, thus preventing the participation of persons under 18 in gambling, it also brought important measures for their protection and helped to reduce the black market.”
“Only in the first month following the law coming into effect, 90% of illegal online gambling has disappeared from the Czech market. A total of 121 websites have already been blocked. In total, fines amounting to CZK615.1m were imposed for the illegal operation of online gambling. For operating online games in violation of the law or the game plan, final penalties of CZK360,000 were imposed."
Schillerová added that governing gambling online was, and continues to be, a particular challenge for the Czech government.
"Despite the fundamental progress in setting up modern gambling regulation and enforcing the rules of the game, we naturally did not rest on our laurels, especially the Internet. Responding to new trends in this area is another challenge for us.”
However, at the same event, national drug policy coordinator Jarmila Vedralová said she was concerned about the prevalence of online gambling, especially among young men. The Czech national monitoring centre for drugs and addiction said in a release on 7 November that more than 45% of all gambling money is deposited online.
“Currently, all indicators of online gambling are growing, the proportion of online players among pathological players is increasing, and online sports betting is the biggest problem,” Vedralová said. “Young men are particularly at risk of problem gambling in the online environment.
“It is this dependency that our next steps are targeting. It is not a matter of deleting new technologies from life, but it is important to find a balance in their use.”
In April, Schillerová's Finance Ministry proposed a hike in gambling taxes, from 23% of GGR for all gambling except gaming machines to 30% of GGR for lotteries, live games and bingo operators and 25% for fixed-odds betting. In May, these taxes, some of the funds from will be used to support problem gambling initiatives, were passed.
In June, the Czech General Directorate of Finance told iGamingBusiness that revenue from regulated gambling in the country fell 21.3% in 2018 to CZK31.3bn (£1.1bn/€1.2bn/$1.4bn), with the decline down to a lower contribution from slot machines.