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Cryptocurrency transactions in the online gambling industry: today and tomorrow

In recent years, the cryptocurrency industry has considerably evolved, both globally and locally, and a series of recent events, including from a legal perspective, are indicating that the industry will continue to develop.

For instance, the Government of Gibraltar and the Financial Service Commission of Gibraltar released a press statement in February 2018 announcing that they were going to issue new legislation to regulate ICOs (Initial Coin Offerings), a world premiere.

Meanwhile, however, Malta has become the first country in the world to create a legal framework on blockchain and cryptocurrency technology. The Maltese Parliament passed three laws on 4 July 2018 (Malta Digital Innovation Authority Act,Innovative Technology Arrangements and Services Actand Virtual Financial Assets Act), which will govern, inter alia, the performance of ICOs, virtual currency exchanges, the activity of digital wallet suppliers, thus consolidating Malta’s reputation of “blockchain island”.

Even EU law is moving toward cryptocurrency regulation, as signalled by the adoption of Directive (EU) 2018/843 of 30 May 2018, which modified Directive (EU) 2015/849 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 20 May 2015 on the prevention of the use of the financial system for the purposes of money laundering or terrorist financing (also known as the Anti-Money Laundering Directive 4 – AMLD4). The amendment has brought to AMLD4 rules on cryptocurrency exchange platforms and the activity of digital wallet suppliers (for instance, suppliers involved in virtual currency exchange services and digital wallet suppliers will be considered reporting entities, so they will incur obligations in the field of fighting money laundering and terrorism funding and they will need to adapt their activity to be able to fulfil their compliance obligations). But these rules are not going to be transposed into the national legislations very soon, as the deadline for the transposition of the new directive has been set for 10 January 2020.

Various other recent events suggest that the cryptocurrency industry is on the rise: national virtual coins have been launched in Venezuela and the Marshall Isles; a project has been announced to create the Founders Bank Malta, the first bank held by players on the cryptocurrency market, which will provide services adapted to the companies activating in the industry; Gibraltar United has announced that it will become the first football team in the world to pay its players in crypto coins, etc.

The gambling industry is one of those industries that have undergone significant changes in recent years because of the use of crypto coins on a large scale. There are already online casinos that accept cryptocurrency deposits; this payment system has many advantages for operators and players alike.

Nevertheless, although the advantages of payments in virtual currency are undeniable, the current legal framework does not allow most online casinos to accept such payments, as most states have in place gambling regulations that are opposed to crypto currency payment systems.

This is the case of Romania, among other countries, since the national law requires online gambling operators to deposit the players’ funds only in bank accounts opened with banks of Romania. Also, the means of payment and the currencies must be operated through a payment processor licensed by The National Gambling Office. However, this legislative standing will have to be replaced, sooner or later, since the development of the cryptocurrency industry is becoming a reality which can no longer be ignored by state authorities.

According to coinmap.org, there are already approximately 50 business entities throughout Romania that accept bitcoin transactions, and this number is expected to increase exponentially in the near future.

Consequently, given all these recent developments in the cryptocurrency industry, including in Romania, it is just a matter of time before the national legislation allows online gambling operators to accept virtual currency payments.

Cristian Radu
Partner at ȚUCA ZBÂRCEA & ASOCIAȚII

Claudiu Filipoiu
Associate at ȚUCA ZBÂRCEA & ASOCIAȚII

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