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Interview SYNOT - CZECH REPUBLIC


Constitutional Court in 2013 re-established their right to regulate on such matters.


New lottery laws, introduced in 2012, had allowed the Finance Ministry to license VLTs, even if they went against a town’s wishes. Revoking this obli- gation has seen thousands of VLTs removed from locations, effectively closing arcades that still had nine years left to run on their licences.


"This is not an environment in which we can do business," said Mr. Valenta of the actions taken by the local councils. Every city in the Czech Republic has its own local law, each different from every other. It's incredibly difficult to comply with so many different and highly discriminating rules and regulations. Working within this environment is impossible, which is why we are looking for- ward to embracing the new law. We hope it will show that gaming can be regulated properly and establish exactly what it means to be a licence- holder in the Czech Republic."


A new Czech government was sworn in on January 30, 2014, and the three-party coalition is already looking at changes that would put an end to the 'grey market' in the Czech Republic that sees Internet kiosks installed in the same towns and cities that have banned VLT gaming.


"Gaming is a major theme of discussion during elections," said Mr. Valenta. "Politicians like to take a tough stance on gambling, but the fact is that the cities will feel the loss of tax revenues from legal gaming, while illegal gambling takes its place. We believe that the mayors that asked to ban VLTs will realise their mistake over time and we also believe that we will be successful in the court cases. The EU courts will take a very long time to reach a verdict, but the national courts should make their rulings in the near future, and this will have a massive effect on the market."


ters in which we can work in the gaming industry in the Czech Republic."


At present the Czech Gaming Association has agreed draft proposals for the new legislation with the Czech Ministry of Finance. It's an encouraging sign that the government is communicating with the gaming industry ahead of the introduction of the new law. One of the measures currently being proposed would see the necessity for player regis- tration for VLT gaming, with a national system keeping track of players, monitoring and possibly controlling spend per hour, with an exclusion sys- tem that would tie into the social responsibility aspects of the new law.


"The new law will be a good thing for the indus- try," commented Mr. Valenta, "but it must also conform with EU legislation. Right now Synot is involved in a series of legal actions at the national and European Court level following the termina- tion of VLT licences that were legitimately award- ed in 2012. We have sent a complaint to the EU Commission and await a response. We would


Currently, Synot is involved in a series of legal actions at the national and European Court


level following the termination of VLT licences that were


legitimately awarded in 2012


much rather continue with our business than fight battles through the courts, but our claim is for bil- lions of euros in damages and we must pursue this course of action through to the end."


Synot is fighting the decision of the government and regional city councils to terminate VLT licences that were granted for a period of 10 years, which was reduced to three years and has since been left to the discretion of the city halls to void their validity altogether. Local councils in the Czech Republic regained licensing powers over video lottery terminals (VLTs) after the


The decision of the city councils to remove VLTs and ban gaming within their borders has been a drawn out process, so much so that the removal of machines and closure of arcades is just starting to take effect in 2014, almost a year after the changes were initiated. The delay in the cancellation of the licences means that the damage to the Czech mar- ket actually starts now. As a result, many of the businesses are only now reacting to the termina- tion of the licences.


According to Mr. Valenta, it's not just the operators that are seeking address from the courts, but soft- ware suppliers that received government con- tracted work for 10 year licences have also thrown their weight behind legal action, as the govern- ment agreement was to cover their investments to the same degree. "Our plan is to continue to grow our business," described Mr. Valenta of the future for Synot. "Luckily there are countries and mar- kets that recognise that bans are not a good idea. We are not looking to change our business, but look instead to new opportunities. Politicians are changing their minds all the time. I am not. I am not elected."


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