Eye on Europe - June 5. 2006

5 June 2006

Gambling Czechs -- Tomáš Prouza, the Czech finance minister, recently stated that the Czech Republic's gambling market in 2005 was US$4.2 billion--a 7.2 percent increase over 2004. More than a half of the revenues came from fruit machines. Growth areas are lotteries, odds betting and gaming machines. Casino gambling declined. The Czech Republic has a population of 10.2 million.

Another 'Plan D' -- EU ministers continued last week their discussions on the proposed directive on services in the internal market. The discussions were based on the amended version (brought forward by the Commission in April), which closely reflected the results of the first reading by the European Parliament in February 2005. The Council reached political agreement on a draft directive, which will go to the European Parliament for a second reading. They write that they "reduce regulatory fragmentation and encourage and facilitate growth in cross-border service provision. It will remove and create more growth and jobs in the EU by freeing up cross-border trade and investment in services. Businesses will find it easier to establish anywhere in the EU, saving time and money." This of course is not meant for the gambling industry, since the complete gambling industry could not make a strong lobby front. But the good news is that catering in casinos is part of the service directive! The aim of the second reading is to adopt a final text during the Finnish presidency in the second half of 2006. However, knowing the Finns, there could be yet another delay. . . .

Yes Privy, No Privy -- "Are we going to privatize the Romanian National Lottery or are we not going to privatize the national lottery?" . . . That is the question. The latest news in this never-ending saga comes from Bucharest Daily News, which reports, "The Chamber of Deputies Economic Policy Committee reportedly turned down the governmental ordinance on the privatization. In the absence of the representatives of the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Justice--which determined the repeated cancellation of the debates on the respective ordinance, the president of the committee, Social Democrat Mihai Tudose held a vote on his proposal to reject the bill." I repeat: "The Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Justice were not there!" Not there. I'm afraid that I'll be writing on this yes-or-no privatization for another three years. . . . I'm very sorry. As I always find myself saying, we'll follow up again soon.

No Comments from UNI -- A few weeks ago it was reported that Europe's 7 million-strong UNI (Union Network International) declared at its latest annual meeting on the gaming industry that it is against online casino activities being contrary to the idea of a "gaming without people working for people." Several times I tried unsuccessfully to contact Philip Bowyer, the UNI's casino work contact in Geneva, because I had several questions, such as: How many UNI members are casino employees? How would you respond to the notion that high-tech developments are here to stay? Considering that telecoms/IT is one of the three main fields of UNI's work area, isn't your stance contradictory? It is pity that such a big union is not willing answer these questions. During the first meeting of UNI's Casino Employees Committee (represented by more than 20 delegates from 10 European countries), an action program for casino employees was accepted. A commitment to decent working hours was introduced, as well as a European certificate of qualifications. Better protection against sexual harassment and violence at work and discrimination against women were among the key subjects discussed. Other matters included the move toward a social dialogue with European casino employers, Internet gambling and repetitive strain injury.

Rob van der Gaast has a background in sports journalism. He worked for over seven years as the head of sports for Dutch National Radio and has developed new concepts for the TV and the gambling industry. Now he operates from Istanbul as an independent gambling research analyst. He specializes in European gambling matters and in privatizations of gambling operators. Rob has contributed to IGN since Jul 09, 2001.