A welcome, even if temporary change, in the Hungarian online betting industry has taken place. Four domains have been removed from the blacklist after a lawsuit was filed by the operators. Even though it is only a move meant to abate the steaming tension, the domains are out of the black for the period until the legal tussle is resolved. The entire iGaming industry will no doubt be watching the outcome of the legal battle and gaming casinos who are on the blacklist will be eager to take a cue so as to form their own strategy to avoid the embargo.
Earlier this year in July, the Gambling Supervision Department, a division of Hungary’s National Tax and Customs Administration, announced that it would be coming up with a blacklist of all casino domains that it thinks target Hungarian customers without any official authorization. The first version of the blacklist released back in July contained 10 domains. Another eleven domains were added later which included popular casino sites like Unibet’s UK-facing domain Unibet.co.uk, Doxxbet.com, LSbet.com, and seven domains belonging to Sportingbet. Just last week, three more domains were identified by the regulator but they have yet to be added to the official list. These include Bonnier Gaming’s Redbet.com, Betclic Everest’s Everestpoker.com, and Mansion’s Casino.com.
The blacklist requires that all the defaulting domains be blocked by all the internet service providers in the country for a period of ninety days. Domain blocking is a means of ensuring that the casino operators withdraw from the market on their own. However, four of the blocked domains – bwin.com, mayplay.com, hu.unibet.com, hu.10bet.com – decided to file a lawsuit against the Gambling Supervision Authority resulting in the temporary removal of the blockade. The casino sites have asked the Hungarian courts to suspend the enforcement of the blacklist, according to business news service Gaming Intelligence . After the sanctions were lifted, bwin.party was in the clear with no domains on the blacklist while Unibet’s UK domain is still blocked even as its Hungarian domain has been freed.
Mária Nagy Raskóné, from the Gambling Supervision Department, has explained that the main reason why the sanctions against the four domains were removed is that until the legal resolution comes through, the enforcement measures cannot be carried out in full. The casinos are claiming that the Hungarian sanctions are in violation of the CJEU (European Court of Justice) rules which say that no national court or authority can impose a sanction on operators who have valid gaming licenses in other EU member countries only to favor national interests. This however does not mean that the Hungarian regulator will stop its investigation of unlicensed online gambling in Hungary, says Raskóné. The regulating authority is only waiting for a court verdict on the said lawsuit before it moves ahead with its plans to create a well-regulated gambling market.
Renee is an international analyst and journalist specializing in covering legal developments and legislative efforts in regulated online betting markets world wide.