Online Players Are Endangered by Illegal Websites, Not Legal Operators

Recently, articles have repeatedly appeared around the transfer of players from casinos to the Internet. This is not a trend occurring only in the field of gambling, but we can observe it in all fields (trade, sales, services), and on a much wider scale, for example, in the field of food. Although grocery stores are open (unlike casinos), people are making massive use of online grocery shopping to such an extent that the Rohlik Group alone closed last year with a turnover of over € 300 million (€ 7.8 billion). CZK), which is an annual increase of more than 100%.

The Internet is a certain societal phenomenon, which is partly related to modern times and the technologies that surround us, but, of course, the biggest mover now is the ongoing pandemic situation. In addition, the government itself even recommends the provision of services through it.

However, gambling establishment and casino operators are in a much more complicated situation. Their establishments have been closed for several months, they do not have a “take-away window” or anything like that, so it is natural that players are looking for this form of entertainment on the Internet. However, it may be assumed that after they reopen, players would find their way back. After all, we could see this after the spring wave of the pandemic in 2020, when players returned to casinos and the situation was like the one before the pandemic.

Arguments that online gambling games are more dangerous than those operated in casinos must be rejected. Legal operators of gambling establishments and casinos, as well as those who operate their gambling games via the Internet, meet strict legal conditions, so that players stay entertained and do not sink into pathological gambling, which can have negative effects on both individuals as well as entire families.

However, the danger is represented by illegal operators.

However, what the articles on the players’ shift to the Internet because of the pandemic fail to mention is the increase in the number of illegal gambling websites. In 18 monitored countries such as Turkey, Poland, Cyprus, Italy, Greece, Belgium, Lithuania and the Czech Republic, the number of blocked illegal gambling websites exceeded the limit of 110,000. The total number of blocked websites in Europe reached 113,865 as of 31 December 2020, more than double the number two years ago, and represents a year-on-year increase of 42.7%, or 34,073 domains.

This information is even more important because not only do illegal operators not pay out winnings to winners in frequent cases, but they also do not comply with legal conditions, let alone use any player protection tools such as the Register of Excluded Persons, strict player registration and verification, restrictions on game time, restrictions on bets etc.

What is the situation like abroad?

Our northern neighbours are fully aware of this danger. Therefore, Poland is second only to Turkey in the number of blocked websites (registered on the so-called blacklist), which contained 13,821 domains at the end of March, while 4,408 domains were added to this blacklist last year.

Although Poland was registering an average of more than 360 illegal sites per month, they are working on legislation to speed up the process and expand the reach also to the websites that only advertise or promote illegal gambling.

The Polish government has stated that since the introduction of the blacklist three years ago, only around 3% of appeals against rulings have been lodged, and all contested rulings were upheld by administrative courts, declaring that the instrument is under strict but fair supervision. According to the new rules, which are now being discussed in the lower house of parliament (Sejm), the registration, change and deletion from the blacklist should be decided at ministerial level by a designated body of the National Tax Administration. This should make the whole blocking process more efficient and faster.

Slovakia achieved lower numbers yet added 182 domains on its blacklist last year and had 377 registered illegal websites at the beginning of February 2021.

Wondering how the Czech Republic is doing?

Compared to Poland, our blacklist is much shorter. At the end of March 2021, it contains a total of 181 domains, while only 6 domains were registered last year. This year, the situation is a bit better, but it still cannot stand much comparison. In the first three months of 2021, 54 illegal domains were registered. Another interesting data is the number of the so-called duplicate websites registered on the blacklist, i.e., domains operated by the same operator, but differing in number or other character. 80% of such websites are listed on the Czech blacklist, while duplicate websites occur on the Slovak blacklist in about 18% of cases.

If more than 13,000 illegal websites have been blocked in Poland and more are being added to the blacklist every day, it is hard to imagine that only 181 illegal websites were operating in the Czech Republic in more than 4 years, even more so when in Slovakia, twice the Czech number of illegal websites was registered on the blacklist in 3 years.

The Institute for Gambling Regulation is preparing a detailed analysis of the development of the number of blocked domains in European countries on the issue of blocking illegal websites.

However, the number of illegal websites listed on the blacklist is not the only problem. For blocking to be successful, Internet service providers must meet their legal obligations and block the blacklisted websites, which does not always happen. There are an estimated 884 Internet service providers and although this obligation for them has been in place for more than 4 years, not everyone is familiar with it. On the other hand, who is aware of this problem is the Czech Telecommunication Office (CTU), which published a press release at the end of March this year, in which it draws attention to this issue. Let us hope that the CTU as well as other central bodies do not stop addressing the issue of illegal websites and will deal with it more thoroughly.