Kristof Szucs, an online and offline gambling specialist, shared his opinion about the market condition in Hungary, the governmental regulations in the country and the future of the casino industry.
As you specialize more in the Hungary area, let’s speak about this country. Do you think that the gambling laws in Hungary are too complex?
I agree. The gaming regulation in Hungary is "complex", especially, when looking at it from the outside. The reason for this is the history of the gaming regulation. The first gaming law was issued in 1992, and the second regulation – in 1995. Since this time, all these documents have been only "patched" and modified. Many rumors were going around a new gaming law. However, we have the law with both, modern and antique parts. In a way, it is good for us, gaming consultants, because not text but practical use (how the regulator considers it) defines the necessity of operation.
What is the main factor for the high popularity of land-based casinos in Hungary? Is it an attraction for tourists first of all or for citizens as well?
Casinos attract people because the government banned all slots houses in 2012. Before this time, there were 25 000 slot machines in Budapest and only 1 500 left after the ban. It was a very bold move from the government and ended a separate area in the history of the Hungarian gambling. Now there are 11 casinos in the country and slot machines are allowed only in some of them. Except for the Las Vegas Casino (in the Sofitel Hotel, Budapest), most casinos cater for local guests.
What are the major differences between the gambling market in Hungary and other European countries?
The main difference is in the regulation. Although in most EU countries gambling is not a liberal market, Hungary has a hybrid of the government monopoly and a private equity business model. Lottery, sports betting (both online and offline) are allowed only for the government. Land-based casinos operate under a concession agreement with the government. Online casinos can be organized only as a part of land-based entities. Nevertheless, from the EU’s point of view, the market is still "gray". The current regulation isn’t EU-conform, so, other online operators can’t be prosecuted to operate in Hungary.
What do you think about the future of the gambling sector in Hungary? Will it face a lot of changes in the nearest time?
I think so. I do believe that sports betting will be allowed for online casinos too. Also, there is a change in the ownership structure of the biggest private operator, and, surely, it will stir the waters up.
Will online poker still be the most popular direction in online gambling (as it is stated in some latest poker news) in Hungary in 2020?
Online poker is NOT the most popular direction in Hungary for some years. The market is consolidated, and it is a very small "lake", there aren’t so many fish for the sharks, none of the allowed online casinos carries poker as a product. Maybe newcomers of the online market can boost poker, but, under the current regulation, the joint liquidity is a problem. Also, I don’t see PokerStars getting a license, consequently, I don’t think there will be a renaissance of poker now. Nevertheless, while I am writing this text, the government has closed down shops and other public places because of the COVID-19. People’s stay at home may give a boost to poker.
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