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Time for Hungary to Liberalize Internet Gambling Laws

2 December 2010 by admin

hungarian-flagRecessions are interesting things. They are terrible because they hurt businesses, lead to a loss of jobs, and lower the quality of life. However, they do have some benefits. Often it is simply the market correcting itself, fixing artificially inflated values. They also cause people to look at economics, consider what is working and what is not, and decide to make changes. The global financial meltdown caused every country to take a long look at themselves and as a result, many changes have already been made or are underway.

One of the changes we are seeing is the liberalizing of laws. Governments are looking at whether or not it is beneficial to continue to fight something people want to do, such as gamble, especially when it can be a source of revenue. Since the recession hit, many countries have started talking about legalizing and regulating online gambling or expanding their existing casino industry. Some have already liberalized their market. One country that may be considering that next is Hungary.

szerencsejatek_zrtCurrently online gambling is illegal in Hungary. The only gambling allowed in the country is offered by Szerencsejáték, the state-run gambling monopoly. Szerencsejáték brought in approximately 154 billion forints (approx. 717,735,945 USD). Gabor Nemeth, who is commercial director for Szerencsejáték, estimates that Hungary’s online gambling market is worth “anything between 10 billion and 100 billion forints.”

You might be thinking, well, that’s kind of a wide range, isn’t it? Yes, it is. If it helps, Nemeth says that he thinks the number would be closer to 100 billion. Well, thanks. Try to cut him some slack, though. It’s difficult to estimate how much money people are spending doing an illegal activity. It’s not like you can go around asking them and expect honest answers.

nepszabadsagKrisztian Molnar, who is the head of the tax-collection service in the nation, APEH (don’t make me write the full name), thinks that it’s time to legalize and regulate online gambling. Speaking with the Népszabadság, a Hungarian newspaper, Molnar said that it’s difficult to stop illegal online gambling because the casino websites are located overseas. Molnar said the government could block offending websites, but it would be better to work out a national strategy to liberalize the online gambling market in Hungary.

Given the recent events of PokerStars barring more than one Chinese player from playing at a poker table at any given time, I wonder if special attention will be paid to Hungerians. After all, Béla Lugosi was very good at hypnotizing people with a look of the eyes and a gesturing of the hands. It seems to be a cultural thing as well. When Ed Wood asked him how he does that, Lugosi replied that “you must be double-jointed; and you must be Hungarian.” So if I learned anything from a movie made about the worst director in history, it’s that you have to be careful when playing poker against a Hungarian.

bela_lugosi_dracula

Rules such as “don’t hypnotize your opponents” could always be written into the new gambling laws, though. As long as the government is sure to include common-sense rules like that, I see no reason why offering legal online gambling in Hungary wouldn’t be a big success. Not a Béla Lugosi level of success – I mean, he was undead; you can’t kill him! – but a success just the same.

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