NSoft’s Data Protection Officer, Zlatan Omerspahic, outlines how a strong legal framework is helping to unravel opportunities for online firms across Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Serbia.
iGAMING TIMES: What opportunities are there for operators looking at Bosnia and Herzegovina’s online market in 2019?
ZLATAN OMERSPAHIC: The two important facts to be emphasized are that the gambling industry as well as some other industries, such as banking, are extensively improving in terms of digitalisation of their services, and consequently the increase of online market popularity becomes the major challenge for all operators. NSoft is also aware of this progress, and is keen to provide services that meet the highest standards. The second fact, and surely not less important, is the remarkable increase in the popularity of betting in Bosnia and Herzegovina, which implies that this trend will continue in 2019 with the emphasis on online betting. Operators will be challenged to meet the needs of digital users and maintain their satisfaction, and if they succeed the profit opportunities will certainly not cease.
Another unique feature for this region is the popularity of virtual games of chance in the retail business segment, which, although at a mature stage of operations, is still expanding due to the positive state regulations. The most popular sport is traditionally football, followed by basketball and tennis.
iGT: What legal assurances can foreign investors expect from the region, com- pared to EU member states?
ZO: Under the provisions of the Act on Foreign Investments, in our region (Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Serbia) foreigners may register companies under the same conditions as natives, as long as they fulfill conditions provided by national regulations. This regulatory framework enables equality for foreign investors in the industry of games of chance. It’s very important to emphasize that foreign investors are guaranteed with full legal security of rights acquired from investments.
The processes of obtaining a license, as well as business start-up fees, are completely identical to the fees within the region. Although the aforementioned countries are still not part of the EU, they fully follow EU regulations and trends and introduce no additional restrictions besides the ones that EU permits to its member states in terms of customer protection, national tax policy and responsible gambling promotion.
This is also confirmed by the facts about successful business operations of the foreign companies in the countries of the region such as Novomatic (Austria), Merkur (Germany) and PlanetWin365 (Austria/Italy), in all segments of the games of chance industry.
iGT: How would you describe the current regulatory environment for online gaming and sports betting – and how could this improve in your view?
ZO: Generally we can say that the regional regulatory frame is good, but there is definitely a need for improvement. The common feature is that the countries of the region, although not EU members, are committed to converging to the European standards on the Laws on Games of chance.
Montenegro is expecting the adoption of the new Law on Games of Chance that will introduce changes to the regulation of interactive games of chance, conditions for granting concessions, concession fees, etc. Also, more noticeable and harsher penalties for noncompliance are expected.
In the Republic of Serbia, a new amendment of Law on Games of Chance will be introduced by the newly established government body that should assume the responsibilities of the tax administration. The legislator’s intent is to tighten the controls and increase their efficiency through the introduction of a special government body responsible only for betting and gambling companies.
Unlike Serbia and Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina is a complex state consisting of two entities hence the legal regulations in Bosnia and Herzegovina require harmonisation. One of the major challenges for Bosnia and Herzegovina is still pending story about additional taxation for operators of games of chance. We hope that the solution will meet the European standards in interest of both, the state and the games of chance operators.
Thus, the biggest challenge is finding a balance between the government’s regulatory process and the gambling indus- try’s market interests, jeopardizing neither the state interests nor the interests of the gambling industry.
NSoft is exhibiting at ICE London 2018, stand S1-260.