On Tuesday the Hungarian parliament passed a law regulating online gambling introduced only the previous day. The bill’s sponsors justified the extraordinary measure by claiming the measure was necessary to combat illegal online gambling. The government expects the modification to drive international on-line gambling operators out of the Hungarian market.
This was not the first time Hungarian authorities have taken steps to protect film commissioner and casino mogul Andy Vajna’s monopoly on on-line gambling in Hungary (seen here celebrating with his lovely wife, Timea). Previously, the government arranged for the websites of unlicensed online gambling operators to be banned, with greater or lesser success.
According to daily online nol.hu the new regulations benefit Vajna’s Las Vegas Casino Diamond Kft., which previously signed a contract with the Finnish owner/operator of online gambling platform “Finnplay” to create Hungary’s first authorized online gambling website. In March Vajna’s company signed an agreement with online gambling platform developer Ezugi, reserving the vegas.hu domain name in the process. This summer a third agreement was concluded with British iSoftBettle, a London-based company interested in online gaming.
Although vegas.hu has yet to go live, a Google search reveals that the site will offer online blackjack, roulette, and virtual slot machines. Hungary’s first official online gambling portal is scheduled to launch late this year.
In light of this, it is understandable why it was necessary to urgently modify the law so as to enable internet operators to block connections between online gamblers’ bank accounts and illegal online gambling websites, writes nol.hu. In the future it will no longer be possible to wire funds from Hungarian bank accounts to international gambling and track betting portals.
National Tax and Customs Administration (NAV) undersecretary András Tállai told parliament that online gambling would generate tax revenues of HUF 10-20 billion. According to nol.hu, the industry’s annual turnover in Hungary should amount to at least HUF 60 billion.
In October 2012 the Hungarian parliament banned those slot machines that were outside licensed casinos, allegedly on national security grounds.
In 2014 Vajna was awarded the exclusive right to operate casinos in Budapest and throughout much of Hungary. Thanks to a 1999 law limiting online gambling in Hungary, Vajna was effectively given the semi-exclusive right to operate online gambling platforms in the country without having to pay additional concession fees to the state.
Many speculate that an informal condition of the lucrative government concession was that Vajna agree to invest part of his winnings in pro-government media. In January this year, Vajna acquired Hungary’s second-largest commercial television station TV2, paid for in large part with loans obtained from state-owned banks. Not long after Vajna acquired TV2, it became one of the main beneficiaries of copious government media spending under propaganda minister Antal Rogán. Vajna is rumored to be planning to expand his media holdings in the country, including the launch of a radio station.