A view on the proposed changes to the Romanian legislative framework on gambling advertising
As Romania’s legislature contemplates a strict ban on gambling advertising, Cosmina Simion and Geanina Oprița consider what is driving the regulation
Considering the development of advertising in general, characterized by an impressive number of channels and innovative methods through which information is delivered to the target audience, it is not surprising that, across multiple European jurisdictions, the attention of the gambling market has shifted towards this topic. The tendency has not gone unnoticed in Romania either, as it prepares for an important and, some may say, overdue reform in the gambling advertising sector.
2022 has proven to be an effervescent year from the perspective of Romanian gambling industry, characterized by the most significant changes brought forward following an initial reform of the legal framework in 2015–2016. While some of the changes focused on the modernization of existing legislation, it cannot be ignored that other changes, which imposed new taxes or increased the existing ones for entities operating in this industry, appear to have been enacted with the sole purpose of creating new revenue for the Romanian state budget.
In 2023, the Romanian legislature remains determined to continue the process of change. As at the end of 2022, several legislative proposals have been submitted with the Romanian Parliament aiming to impose new gambling advertising restrictions. These are partly in response to public pressure, although a cynic might think they may have been encouraged for political gain.
In a nutshell, the Romanian gambling legislation in force today contains several provisions that regulate the advertising activity of licensed gambling operators, including, among others:
- the interdiction to place advertising materials within or on the boundaries of educational, religious or social-cultural premises,
- the obligation to display on any and all advertising materials the interdiction for minors participation to gambling activities as well as details of the gambling license and the logo of the Romanian National Gambling Office,
- the advertising of bonuses offered by online operators maybe shown only on limited channels, namely, on their own operating platforms, or the platforms of their licensed affiliates (in Romania such entities are required to hold their own B2B license as well) in addition to the direct marketing sms or email messages to their opted-in active players.
Reshaping Romania’s view on gambling advertising
The reform envisioned by the Romanian legislature focuses on the amendment of the audiovisual and advertising regulatory framework. The initial legislative proposal provided that any form of advertising for gambling is prohibited, resulting in a total ban of gambling advertising. Following discussions in the Romanian Senate – as first notified Chamber of the Parliament –the draft law has been almost completely amended, with the exception of two surviving points. The updated proposal has been adopted by the Romanian Senate and is now being discussed by the Chambers of Deputies, as decisional chamber.
The current legislative proposal, as pending before the Chamber of Deputies, amends the Romanian audiovisual law in the sense that any form of audiovisual commercial communication is prohibited for gambling activities carried out by operators not licensed under the national law. The restriction will extend to audiovisual commercial communication for gambling activities, presented or recommended by public, cultural, scientific or sports personalities or other persons who, by making use of their celebrity may encourage gambling in general and sports betting activities in particular.
In addition, audiovisual commercial communication for gambling activities is to be prohibited between 06:00 and 23:00. By way of exception, graphic inserts, meaning the representation, static or moving, with or without sound, of the trademark, as defined by law, the logo or other symbols identifying the proprietor of the trademark, logo or symbol or the image of a product representative thereof, would be permitted if displayed during live sports broadcasts. In all cases, such graphic inserts should be accompanied by the message “Be responsible”.
Romanian advertising law would also undergo changes if the legislative proposal is enacted, as gambling advertising would not be allowed unless accompanied by the message “Play responsible”. It should also mention the interdiction to gamble for individuals under 18 years of age and should not, directly or indirectly, encourage minors and adolescents to participate in games of chance.
Forms of outdoor advertising are to be permitted if the size of the advertising material does not exceed, individually, for an advertising material relating to a single licensed gambling operator, a total surface area of 30 square meters. Moreover, it would prohibit the promotion of prizes in money or material goods through forms of outdoor advertising. Forms of outdoor advertising would include elements such as billboards or advertising structures that are located in public areas, including on various buildings or structures.
If the draft law is adopted in the current form under discussion, the powers of the Romanian National Gambling Office are also to be extended, and the authority would be responsible for compliance monitoring. New sanctions consisting of fines ranging between approximately EUR2,000 and EUR10,000 may also be imposed for non-compliance with the new advertising restrictions.
In March 2023, a new legislative proposal for the amendment of the gambling legislation, similar in content to the initial proposal aiming to introduce a total ban on gambling advertising, has been registered with the Chamber of Deputies, as decisional forum. This draft law also tightens the sanctioning regime as, in addition to fines, failure to comply with the ban restrictions may constitute, depending on the consequences, grounds for revoking the license. For a second offence, a sanction of temporary suspension of activity may also be applicable for any liable person.
Although the enacting in Romania of new restrictions on gambling advertising appears to be an inevitability, now more than ever, a cohesive set of provisions in this sense is still being sought. The Romanian legislator is attempting to find a balance between the need to control the gambling advertising phenomenon and the possible negative impact that such restrictions may have on the regulated gambling industry.
While it may be difficult to envision the final form of the legislative proposal that will be adopted by the Romanian Parliament and also to estimate the timeframe, taking into consideration the high interest the public opinion has taken on the subject hand in hand with the political pressure, changes are expected to materialize in the near future.