Roman Neßhold is born in Austria and since 2008 president of the Gambling & Addiction Institute. He is well known as responsible gaming man and delivers player protection for all European countries especially Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Malta. Our team managed to learn more about the institute Roman runs during the Vienna International Gaming Expo and has also asked a few questions to gain an inside perspective of the market.
EEGReport Magazine: Could you give us some details about your background and your expertise?
Neßhold: I have been working with this institute for 15 years up until now. Nine years ago I was trusted with the management of this institute, and I truly enjoy this position and the tasks and challenges that come with it. Being the President of an institute like ours is an honorable and responsible challenge, which I gladly accepted. Over the passed nine years of my president-ship we have become an important contact for stakeholders in the field of gambling. In fact, not only companies but also politicians and local authorities count on our expertise. Before I was announced president of this institute I never would have thought that my specific education in Business, mediation & Conflict Management, communication and additionally Laws could once turn out so valuable exactly because of its specific combination. Just shortly, I had the chance to add Certified Supervisory Expert to my resume successfully.
EEGReport Magazine: Based on the information we have, Institute of Gambling & Addiction Austria is the responsible gaming partner for all players in the gambling and betting business of Austria. Could you elaborate the services you provide and maybe give some insights into the Responsible Gambling steps that have been implemented in the Austrian gambling market?
Neßhold: Although we are based in Austria, we are a worldwide partner for Responsible Gaming. We cooperate with companies all over the world and support them with at least 1000 Responsible Gaming Training’s for more than 20.000 participants. We are part of several Responsible-Gaming-Commissions. Furthermore, we develop social concepts e-learning tools and we provide a RG-certification process, compliance management and any form of communication with authorities. We offer advice on any questions regarding gambling addiction and counselling.
In Austria, Germany and Malta our staff-training’s and Responsible-Gaming-Certifications have been successfully implemented, especially with market leaders. They trust our long lasting experience and reliability. We are often summoned, when others no longer are able to support.
EEGReport Magazine: As we all know, there are different regulatory models in every jurisdiction, which makes operators look twice before entering legalized markets. There hasn’t been a huge interest shown by the large international operators to lobby in Austria for a new regulation, do you feel that these will change in the future?
Neßhold: At the moment, the Ministry of Finance is financially profiting from the present exclusion of competition in the gambling market. A rise in competition could protect the consumers from being exploited but there is no political will to change the present situation. There are attempts to soften up this regulation. There are three pending cases at the EU Court of Justice in Luxembourg, as there are serious doubts, that player’s protection is the real motive – not financial gain – for the present regulation.
Specifically, there are incoherent regulations for gambling machines:
The most dangerous gambling machines in the Casinos, with very high stakes and jackpots of over 1 Million Euro, in my eyes have the weakest player’s protection.
Single site and arcade gambling machines with limited stakes and prices, mandatory player’s cards and very limited playing time, have the strictest player’s protection measures.
EEGReport Magazine: Let’s say we are in a far or close future and Austria has a regulated market which enables remote gambling operators to apply for a license and operate on the territory of Austria. Do you think that Responsible Gambling acts will be adopted? Are you going to fight for these programs?
Neßhold: At the moment there is only one remote gambling license issued. The state holds a share of 33% of the private company Casinos Austria AG, which owns two thirds of this private remote license. This only remote license will expire on 30th of Sept. 2027 and as the state itself and the largest Medias of Austria are profiting from this monopoly, for this and other reasons maybe nothing will change. There simply will not be an open market in Austria.
The legal situation for betting is different as online betting is not part of the gambling law in Austria, therefore remote betting offers and advertising from other countries, in accordance with the EU Services Directive, is possible.
We already are valued partners in political processes concerning Responsible Gaming. Some weeks ago we were invited to Salzburger Landtag (State Parliament of Salzburg) to add our expertise about new regulations in the Betting Market. We are looking for international partners interested in this field.
EEGReport Magazine: What are the key sectors in the Austrian market based on niches? Sports betting, casino, poker?
Neßhold: The key sectors in the Austrian market are online gambling, slot-machines, sports betting, casinos and lotto-offers. Offline-poker is available as well. Due to the lack of attractivity of licensed gambling and betting offers in Austria, a growing percentage of consumers are turning to foreign online gambling and betting offers.
EEGReport Magazine: Looking further afield, where are the major emerging opportunities in Central Europe for operators at this moment?
Neßhold: Remote gambling and betting are fast growing markets everywhere, together with fantasy sports and social games.
National governments have not sufficiently realized yet that only a regulated national market can protect consumers and youth from being exploited and will keep the money in the country.
Therefore, we will see the player’s money disappear in some tax haven in oversea territories, while the responsibility for the damage done will remain within our boarders. The fast developing and growing danger for the consumers and youth comes from the worldwide remote gambling offers where a large part of the offers have only an insufficient player’s protection so far or do not have any at all. At the moment we do have some issues with gambling offers from Costa Rica where some companies do not pay out their customers but still use our good name to lure customers.
Already more than 80% of the population have the opportunity to gamble and bet with their smart phones anywhere in the world, which will, if not regulated in a wise manner, lead to a worldwide gambling problem.