Online gambling in Hungary is about to set out on an expansion mission as the country’s parliament introduced new online gaming legislation that will allow private operators to offer their services. In doing so, the monopoly on sports betting that was held by the state will end.
EEA Operators to Provide Their Services to Hungarian Residents
With the new proposals, operators located in the European Economic Area (EEA) will be able to provide their services to players in Hungary under one condition – they need the permission of the Hungarian gaming regulator.
A limit to the number of permits hasn’t been set, and credit and debit cards will be accepted for deposits if they are linked to an authorized provider of payments. The most recent gambling laws in Hungary were amended in 2014, and according to them, land-based operators were allowed to apply for online gaming licenses, but sports betting was only provided by Szerencsejáték Zrt, a state-run company that held a monopoly on the betting market.
These gambling changes are set to increase player protection. The new bill recognizes the fact that the market is more competitive and that could lead to excess gambling, but states that the player protection plan, which operators will draw, will be in accordance with player protection principles, as well as principles related to responsible gambling in the most heavily regulated markets in Europe and the world.
The competitive market is further explained in the legislation as it states that since there are multiple operators offering their services, that could encourage players to gamble excessively rather than protect the principles of responsible gaming. Hence, the draft will liberalize the betting market, but it will ensure that players remain protected.
Licenses to Come at a Hefty Price
Operators that want to apply for a license in Hungary will have to own capital of at least HUF1 billion ($3.2 million). Fees will cost around HUF600 million ($1.9 million), and these amounts will be paid to the Hungarian State Treasury. Tax rates for operators aren’t determined yet, but they will have to guarantee at least HUF250 million ($810,000).
The European Commission notification will run until May 4 and during that time, the Hungarian bill will be in a standstill period.
This is a rather good development for the country, considering the fact that back in 2017, the Court of Justice for the European Union (CJEU) ruled that the Hungarian rules were unlawfully excluding other European operators from gaining a license.
Hungary is no stranger to being a bit controversial when it comes to gambling rules. In September 2021, Viktor Orban extended the betting licenses of gambling allies until 2056, even though they were set to expire in 2024. Orban quoted economic interests as a reason why the licenses were extended to such a long period.