Hungary may see a tougher approach to internet gambling

Conservative Fidesz government may take a stronger line

Hungarian media were speculating this week that the newly elected Fidesz Party’s conservative roots could bring about a tougher approach to Internet gambling.

The party was recently returned to power for the first time in eight years, and is on record as considering an approach to online gambling control that may mimic the ISP-blocking and financial restraints tactics of Denmark and Norway.

Hungary’s land gambling industry is currently labouring under excessive government interference (see previous InfoPowa reports), with heavy taxes on poker winnings, restrictions on land poker clubs and a 15 percent limit on poker club profits – an additional burden to a 30 percent tax on revenues.

The Hungarian Poker Association has opined that these almost draconian measures were designed to spread poker players out to land casinos, a view that was to some extent confirmed when Finance Minister Laszlo Detrekoi characterised the arrangements as a compromise to suit both poker and casino interests.

Reports suggest that the measures may have resulted in poker club owners calling it a day, and players consequently taking to the Internet and foreign online poker sites as a more player-friendly way to participate in the game.

Hungary has no internet gambling licensing regime, prompting the view that a conservative-leaning political party like Fidesz may decide to go the prohibitionary rather than regulatory route in order to protect local land gambling businesses.

Both local and overseas industry observers are now speculating on which way the new government will jump.

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