Hungary plans to liberalize its sports betting market

According to its recent TRIS notifications (No. 2022/66/HU and 2022/67/HU) sent to the European Commission, the Hungarian legislator has decided to open the Hungarian online sports betting market to private operators in the near future. This liberalisation, the explicit aim of which is to establish a regime in line with the Unibet (C-49/16) and Sporting Odds (C-3/17) judgments of the CJEU, also means that the respective monopoly of Szerencsejáték Zrt. will cease to exist.

The possibility of providing online gambling services will be offered to operators based in the European Economic Area (EEA), and operators must meet the requirements relating to the minimum amount of registered capital (1 billion HUF (approximately 2.8 million EUR )) and must have at least 5 years of experience providing online sports betting/online casino games. The regulatory power of the President of the Regulatory Affairs Supervisory Authority (SARA) will be very important, since the President will be empowered to set the maximum duration of licenses (the maximum foreseen is 7 years) and the minimum amount of guarantees to be provided. by gambling operators (250 million HUF (approximately EUR 700,000)) as well as the amount of license fees (expected: 600 million HUF (approximately EUR 1.7 million)).

The draft also introduces the institution of an action plan for the protection of players, which should be submitted by operators in accordance with the application rules on content, among others.

The bill does not limit the number of licenses that can be granted to operators; however, it excludes operators who have conducted games of chance in an EEA state without a license during the ten-year period preceding their license application. According to the draft, if an operator offers gambling services without a license, it loses its license to provide its services to Hungary.

Regarding payment service providers, according to the draft, deposits can only be made by transfer from the player’s payment account with an approved payment service provider, by credit card online with a payment card linked to such an account or (if authorized by the supervisory authority) by the points of sale / betting offices. Payments to players can be made by transfer to the mentioned accounts. The draft regulation provides that a company incorporated for the purpose of organizing games of chance can only have a payment account if it holds the authorization granted by SARA.

Among some other unusual provisions, it is also a unique feature of the planned regime that the ultimate beneficial owner of the operator must each year be personally present at the offices of the Hungarian regulator and report on the operator’s annual achievements in the field responsible gambling.

It is important to note that the draft does not contain any relevant amendments to the online casino games regime, under which only land-based casino licensees can provide online casino games.

The bill is expected to come into force on January 1, 2023.