The Austria gambling market has a rich history that dates back to the 17th century. During the Middle Ages, Austrians, notably the ordinary peasants and craftsmen, used money and objects to gamble. But as the ruling class realized that people were immensely entertained, Leopold I introduced the first gambling law to regulate the activity.
Since then, the Austria gambling scene has undergone a lot of transformations. Currently, the industry is about to become more transparent and secure, with the government preparing to introduce a massive overhaul. At the center of the changes will be introducing a gambling watchdog to oversee the market. As of now, the Finance Ministry regulates gambling in the country. So, what exactly should Austrian players and operators expect going forward?
In late February this year, Gernot Blumel, Austria's finance minister, announced some far-reaching measures to regulate the Austria gambling space. The new regulations will introduce a brand new regulatory authority, similar to the UKGC in Britain. The rules will also bring new transparency requirements and improved player protection controls.
According to Blumel, the primary objective of the new body will be player protection. "Player protection is of particular importance, as gambling is a very sensitive area for players, their families, and for society, which also carries considerable risks," he said. The 39-year-old politician also explained that players are often affected by addiction. As such, they suffer unnecessary financial and psychological consequences.
Meanwhile, the new body will design and implement a self-exclusion protocol. This protocol will touch on players participating in both online casinos and land-based gambling venues.
Also, the body will weed out operators without any gambling licenses. In addition to that, they will have the mandate to disable internet connection to specific websites. On replicating Germany, the new rules will introduce:
Blumel also stated that the incoming regulation would see the country's gambling market follow in Belgium's footsteps. Austria could place a blanket ban on "loot boxes," which the minister described as dangerous to younger punters. He explained that "loot boxes" let these individuals explore more traditional types of gambling.
Furthermore, Blumel announced new anti-corruption rules after a political scandal involving Casinos Austria, Novomatic, and several well-known politicians. Parliament is already debating to illegalize advertisements, gifts, or donations from gambling operators to politicians. The minister said this move would bring more transparency into the gambling industry.
The finance minister went on to announce that gambling operators will have to pay more taxes. The sole aim is to ensure that these companies contribute to the treatment and prevention of gambling-related problems. Advertising measures will also be tightened, with the introduction of similar rules as those already operating in the tobacco industry.
Lastly, the minister announced the government's plans to abolish federal licenses for VLTs (Video Lottery Terminals). Instead, casino service providers will seek permits from the respective states they operate in. Also, licenses to set up three brand new land-based casinos will be null and void. Fortunately, online and mobile casinos go unscathed in this purge.
The Austrian government hopes to develop all necessary laws to facilitate this shake-up by the end of April 2021. The law would be then introduced into parliament to pass them by Autumn 2021. It's important to remember that plans to overhaul the country's gambling industry have been in the pipeline since March last year. So, it may be a while before the latest changes come into play.