Sadly for anyone hoping to “get Brexit done” this month, the hard work of establishing a new relationship with the EU is only just beginning – and according to Jason Frost, president of Euromat, a whole host of crucial questions have yet to be answered.
Beyond the emotive arguments and the grandiose promises, the devil is all too often in the detail, and that’s precisely the case for the next phase of Brexit negotiations, which could have a far-reaching impact on a whole host of business laws and regulations.
According to Euromat president Jason Frost, as the UK and EU sit down once again to thrash out a trade deal, gambling industry stakeholders are still facing a huge amount of uncertainty about everything from AML regulations to manufacturing practices.
“A lot, unfortunately, remains to be resolved in the trade talks which are about to get underway,” he explained. “The degree of regulatory divergence will be the key issue for companies. Although there is no harmonised gambling law in Europe, there are lots of areas of EU legislation which apply: competition law, intellectual property, anti-money laundering, data protection, rules affecting the manufacture of gaming machines themselves. This will be clearer towards the end of 2020.” Nevertheless, with both sides reliant on an amicable trading relationship, Frost doesn’t expect too many changes from the status quo when the UK finally leaves the bloc at the start of 2021.
“In terms of regulation I do not see any immediate change to our priorities,” he said. “Even if the UK does decide to go in a different direction in some areas, there will be others where they will find it hard to take a different approach because it will impact their ability to access the EU’s Single Market.
“For example, the UK will be keen to negotiate favourable access for its financial services sector and this will probably mean seeking equivalence on a range of legislation including anti-money laundering, so from a UK perspective the EU will remain a highly important level of decision-making.”
Whatever the outcome of negotiations, Euromat is keen to focus on cooperation and coordination across different sectors and countries over the coming months – especially when it comes to mutual goals such as social responsibility. According to Frost, the trade body is also keen to tackle negative trends head-on, taking a united front against the tide of increased taxation and regulatory creep across the continent.
“If we’re talking about industry threats, excessive taxation is the topic that immediately comes to mind,” he said. “Governments often seem to see gambling, and in particular machine gambling, as an endless source of income. Taxation is a fact of life but over taxation in our sector can drive consumers towards illegal gambling offers, damaging both the responsible operators and government income.”
Q & A
Coinslot: The Gambling Commission has been flexing its muscles on the European stage, most recently going into Malta and telling them to get their act together. How does Euromat view this and does the UKGC hard line approach to gambling have support amongst European regulators?
Jason Frost: With gambling rules largely devolved across each European country there will always be these conflicts as regulators try and deal with companies that are cross-border and over which they have only limited jurisdiction. I think there needs to be some degree of consistency and cooperation between regulators to address that. This exists now through the Gambling Regulators European Forum and it’s important that bodies like that have a dialogue with the European industry.
Coinslot: Italy is turning nasty on the machines front and growing populism suggests that anti-gambling views will gather support. How is Euromat planning to tackle these threats?
Jason Frost: As a responsible stakeholder, we want to make sure that social responsibility is prioritised. As an association we invest a lot of time and effort in this. We have a specialist group within the association that helps to promote best practice and in consultation with those experts we have established a set of social responsibility principles that we are keen to promote further. Although you are right about machines being the target right now in Italy the fact is that very often politicians look at gambling as a whole. I am therefore keen in 2020 to find a way to bring together other channels to find ways to collaborate on a regular basis.
Coinslot: This is top priority for Bacta and its members. How is Europe progressing in this area?
Jason Frost: As mentioned, social responsibility is a top priority for Euromat. We are aware that various industry players are doing excellent work in different jurisdictions. Despite this good work, we feel that we can do more in terms of coordination and exchange of best practices. We are stronger when we work together and can learn from each other. This is an area where we plan to focus this year.
Coinslot: What were the highlights of 2019 and your key targets for the year ahead?
Jason Frost: Euromat was invited by the GREF to present at its annual meeting in May on the subject of alternative payments. For me this was a milestone for Euromat as it helps to strengthen relations with regulators Europe-wide. Euromat is the natural interlocutor for the GREF and I intend to build on that in 2020. We are also having our biannual conference this year in Dublin on the 13-14 which is set to be an industry must attend event details of this will be in Coinslot and we will be launching the event at the EAG. For me it’s a really special event and one I am very proud to be hosting on behalf of Euromat.