Romania is a country in Southeastern Europe with a population of 19.4 million nationals as of 2019. A member of the EU since 2007, Romania has witnessed a steady economic growth since then, which has earned it the nickname “the Tiger of Eastern Europe”. Living standards have been consistently improving in the country although it still has issues related to corruption, education, and infrastructure.
The roots of the country’s gambling industry can be traced to the early 20th century and the creation of the national lottery. Loteria Romana was established in 1906 and continues to operate to this day, offering number draws online and offline.
Romania was part of the Soviet Union from 1947 to 1989, during which period all forms of gambling were prohibited. Landbased gambling became legal again after the fall of the communist regime, which brought about the launch of the first new casino in 1991.
The gambling industry continued to thrive on Romanian soil over the following decades, with the turnover of gaming operators reaching RON9.11 billion in 2018. At the moment of writing, both landbased and virtual forms of gambling are legal in Romania. Either way, operators require authorization from the Romanian authorities before they can legally offer their products to local gamblers.
The forms of gambling allowed in the country include casino gaming, poker, slot machines, video lotteries, bingo, sports betting, regular lotteries, and keno. All of these activities are subject to the regulatory scope of the Romanian National Gambling Office (ONJN), which is tasked with the license issuance and the enforcement of the country’s gambling laws.
Laws Governing Gambling in Romania
Government Emergency Ordinance no. 77/2009 (GEO No. 77/2009) is the primary legislation that governs legal gambling activities on the territory of Romania. It states that the operation and organization of gambling activities in the country is a state monopoly. However, the government can grant the right to offer such games based on licenses for each type of gambling activity.
The legislation governs all allowed forms of gambling, both landbased and online, including lotteries, sports wagering (fixed-odds and mutual betting), casino games like roulette, blackjack, and craps, poker, slot machines, bingo, keno, and tombolas (sweepstakes). Social games are not expressly regulated under Romanian law.
GEO no. 77/2009 contains a legal definition of chance games. Such products must cover several characteristics including participation fees, random outcomes, monetary prizes, and public availability. This piece of legislation also governs remote chance games – private operators can apply for and receive Romanian licenses as long as they meet the requirements of the local gambling regulator.
Under Romanian law, the payment solutions implemented by licensed remote gambling companies, cards included, must be operated via payment processors authorized by ONJN. Players’ funds must be deposited into bank accounts at banks located on the territory of the country.
Locally licensed gambling sites must contain information about the games’ rules, the betting limits, and the payouts in the Romanian language. Article 7 (1) states that players who participate in chance-based games must be of legal age, i.e. at least 18 years old. Underage access to gambling products is strictly forbidden by Romanian law.
Respectively, people are not allowed to partake in traditional chance-based games in landbased casinos unless they provide a valid document for identification. Licensed operators are required to pay out players’ winnings within a period of three days under Article 8 (2) of GEO No. 77/2009.
Other than that, gambling operators must comply with the local Fiscal Code (Law No, 227/2015) and the Fiscal Procedure Code (Law No. 207/2015). The National Gambling Office is authorized to regulate gambling services under the provisions of Government Decision No. 298/2013.
Types of Licenses
Article 10 (2) expressly stipulates that it is mandatory to possess a license before one can provide gambling games to Romanian residents. Two types of licenses are available, namely Class 1 and Class 2. Class 1 licenses are issued by the National Gambling Office to business-to-consumer (B2C) companies that specialize in the provision and supply of gambling products. Class 2 permits are granted to business-to-business (B2B) gambling operators that offer said products.
Players from Romania who seek to gamble at locally licensed websites can find a complete list of authorized business-to-consumer operators on the official website of the National Gambling Office. The local regulator also offers extensive information about its business-to-business licensees, which can be found here. The regulatory body runs a blacklist of unlicensed gambling businesses and updates it regularly.
How Are Gambling Operators and Players Taxed in Romania?
Terrestrial and virtual gambling operators are subject to different tax regimes in Romania. Landbased providers of such services are annually charged at a flat rate that depends on the type of games they operate. The annual charges may vary from €5,000 for poker rooms and sweepstakes to €95,000 for physical casinos.
Landbased operators must also contribute an annual authorization tax that is calculated based on several criteria, including revenue and number of gambling locations. Sports betting activities, bingo games shown on TV, and sweepstakes have to pay 16% of their revenue. However, the contributed sum should be no less than €90,000 for sports wagering and €115,000 for bingo games.
Terrestrial casino operators in Bucharest are taxed with authorization charges of €60,000 per gaming table while those based outside the Romanian capital pay €30,000 per table. Slot machines that yield unlimited winnings are subject to authorization charges of €3,600 while bingo games operated in gambling halls are taxed €7,000 per location.
Operators of video lottery terminals (VLT) are charged at a rate of 3% of the gaming revenue. With that said, operators are not the only ones to pay taxes. Patrons are charged entrance fees of €10 for gambling halls and €6-€7 for poker rooms.
Under Article 92 of Emergency Ordinance no. 114/2018, operators that had carried out activities between 2015 and 2018 and owe tax contribution must pay it to the Romanian State Treasury within a period of five days after receiving notification from the local gambling regulator. Ordinance no. 114/2018 also requires those who provide terrestrial chance-based games to set up a special fund that serves as a guarantee against the non-payment of taxes.View more...
Gambling Advertising Policies in Romania
The Romanian authorities take players’ well-being seriously, which is why they impose a variety of restrictions on the advertising of gambling products and services. For example, online gambling operators are strictly prohibited from spamming their customers with messages that contain information about chance-based games, especially when an unlimited number of recipients is targeted.
Players who have self-excluded from a given online casino cannot receive any marketing materials. Advertising unlicensed gambling services is also against Romanian law and so is placing marketing materials in the proximity of schools, socio-cultural, and religious institutions.
The Romanian regulator has published a set of guidelines on the responsible advertising of gambling services and products. Known as the Code of Ethics, the publication has no regulatory nature. Rather, licensed operators should embrace the policies outlined there voluntarily in the interest of the social good.
As for advertising via channels like television or radio, operators are recommended to refrain from doing it during periods when their commercials can be seen (or heard) by children. Many local broadcasters voluntarily stopped showing such commercials between 7:00 am and 11:00 pm after the National Audiovisual Council slammed several stations in 2017 for airing gambling-related commercials within this timeframe.
An exception is made for online gambling advertising during live sports events. It resulted from the Audiovisual Council announcing Decision no. 614/2019 and more specifically, Article 89 which stipulates audiovisual programs containing chance games must comply with the general requirements for the protection of underage persons.
Who Regulates the Gambling Sector in Romania?
Both terrestrial and virtual gambling operators in Romania must satisfy the regulatory requirements of the National Gambling Office (Oficiul Național pentru Jocuri de Noroc). Established under Government Emergency Ordinance no. 20/2013, the Office is subordinated to the local government, and more specifically to the Romanian Ministry of Public Finance.
The National Gambling Office oversees all regulated forms of online gambling in the country, including slots, house-banked table games, poker, sports betting, bingo games, and lotteries. The entity was founded to improve gambling regulations in the country and adapt them to the changes in the industry.
Apart from licensing, oversight, and ensuring social responsibility, the Gambling Office has the mandate to combat unauthorized gambling. The entity achieves this by detecting and sanctioning unlicensed operators who target the Romanian market.
The regulator has drawn up a list of all locally licensed operators and updates it frequently. Also available on ONJN’s website is a blacklist of all gambling sites that are currently blocked in the country due to lack of authorization.
The regulator has the power to order local Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to block the access to such sites. The same applies to payment processors, which are required to block the transactions to and from such websites. The provision of unauthorized gaming is a criminal offense under Romanian law.
Participating in such activities is a minor offense. The worst that could happen is being charged with a fine between RON5,000 and RON10,000 although gamblers are rarely prosecuted for betting at unlicensed sites. At the moment of writing, the blacklist includes over 1,300 banned operators although this number is likely to increase as ONJN adds more unauthorized sites in the future.
Romania has witnessed dramatic progress when it comes to gambling regulations. The local industry is a far cry away from the chaos of the early 2000s thanks to the enactment of Government Emergency Ordinance no.77/2009, which established a regulatory framework all licensed operators must abide by. The legislative landscape may further change in the future. A proposal amending the current law was submitted to the country’s parliament in the fall of 2020.