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Romania has a long history of gambling, which was interrupted by the former communist government which made it illegal, but once this government was toppled in 1990, casino gambling is now back in full force in the country.
There are 21 casinos now operating in Romania, in addition to over 20,000 gambling machines located in various other locations throughout the country. (1) Romanians do love to gamble and have easy access to all the land based gambling they desire.
So players wishing to play live poker can just visit one of the many casinos in Romania, and while most are in the Bucharest area, there are several others located elsewhere in the country. (2) In addition to that, there are two large poker only poker clubs in Romania, the PokerFest Club Marriott in Bucharest, and the Royal Poker Club in Cluj Napoka, both of which offer extensive poker action. (3)
Sports betting is also popular in Romania and it is legal as well. Romania is as wide open as you ever see as far as gambling goes with all forms readily available.
Online Gambling in Romania
In a way the Romanian people felt stifled by the restrictions of the former communist government and after that problem went away they cast off their chains, and one of these chains was not being able to gamble, so it’s almost like there was a celebration that ensued and the celebration continues 25 years later, and there’s no reason why it won’t continue.
So online gambling has been going on in Romania for the entire time that online gambling has been around, and continues unabated. The government in 2010 passed a law seeking to regulate online gambling though, and as is often the case with efforts to regulate it, it hasn’t exactly been smooth sailing as far as implementing it.
Romania is now a member of the EU and that exposes them to the oversight of the European Commission, and one of the things that this commission concerns itself with is ensuring that member countries provide fair competition in the gambling market.
So for the first three years since this law was passed in 2010, we had the odd situation where the law required that online operators in Romania obtain a license, but there wasn’t a government body created to regulate and issue licenses.
This was remedied in 2013 when the Romanian National Gambling office was created, and finally we got to see what regulation will look like and the terms and conditions of obtaining a license were set out.
These rules were seen as too restrictive by the EU though, as among other things it required licensees to have a physical presence in Romanian land based gambling, and this and other stipulations are seen by the EU as not being in accordance with the free market atmosphere embodied by the European Union. While member countries do retain the right to make their own laws, due to the nature of this union, they also must comply with EU rules that apply to all member countries, and gambling restriction and regulation has presented problems in many EU countries, so this hasn’t been unusual. (4)
The EU has also criticized Romania for its corruption within its gambling industry, and therefore they not only need to relax their restrictive rules for licensing, opening their market up to not only Romanian companies but non-Romanian gambling companies as well, it is also felt they also need to clean up their image so to speak.
So in other words what we need is a more open market and also one that outside gambling companies would be more willing to participate in, and both are probably needed before we see successful online gambling and online poker regulation in Romania.
The Future of Gambling in Romania
For now though the regulations are on paper only and no licenses have been issued yet, nor does there appear to be any interest in obtaining one. The process has certainly moved very slowly here but no one appears to be in any hurry to get it off the ground, and we’re still a ways off from seeing a workable regulatory scheme.
From what we have seen in other countries though, the European Commission does keep pestering countries to comply with their rules, although this process can take many years and it’s also a very lengthy process. In the end though the pressure keeps mounting, albeit very slowly, and we have seen countries cave in to the pressure eventually, and it’s likely that at some point down the road Romania will as well. (5)
In the meantime, as is commonly the case with European countries in particular, players just play on as normal while the country figures out what they are going to do with online gambling and poker regulation. This is the case in Romania as well as players simply play at whatever sites they wish, unimpeded by government interference, not that government interference has proven to be very effective at curtailing this anyway in places that seek to do so.
For online poker players who feel that regulation will benefit them, it bears to keep in mind that these regulations are really set up to benefit the government, not players, and the ideal situation is to have a totally free market where there are no restrictions on access and online poker companies can reside in the most tax friendly jurisdictions, which benefits players as well as the companies, due to not having to charge higher rake to make up for additional taxes paid.
So the process of regulation in Romania is very slow but that should suit Romanian poker players very well. It’s not that regulation doesn’t work, at least when it’s designed properly, like it has in some countries, but there is also the risk of messing this up, and some countries have certainly done that.
It’s hard to say what we’ll eventually end up seeing in Romania and the hope is that once this is all worked out and we actually see Romanian licensed online poker sites, that lessons from other countries will be learned, and we are seeing that in the most recent regulatory schemes, but for now it’s just business as usual.