Leading UK sports betting and casino operator William Hill has left the Czech Republic market. The operator’s exit took place only days ahead of the enforcement of the country’s new set of online gambling laws.
Earlier this month, William Hill customers and affiliates, based in the Czech Republic, were informed via email that the gambling operator’s products will no longer be available on the territory of the country due to the latest regulatory developments.
The Czech Republic approved its new Gambling Act in the summer of 2016. The new gambling regulations will be officially enforced on January 1, 2017. Once the regulations take effect, gambling operators, based on the territory of the European Union, will be required to obtain new online licenses from the Czech authorities in order to continue providing their services to residents of the country.
However, a certain possibility exists of William Hill obtaining a license allowing it to operate on Czech territory. In the email that was sent to William Hill’s affiliates, the sports betting and casino operator expressed confidence that it would still have the opportunity to work with them in the future.
Nevertheless, Czech customers of the operator were asked to withdraw the funds from their William Hill accounts. Meanwhile, William Hill’s affiliates on the territory of the country are expected to remove all marketing materials that promote the operator’s gambling products to Czech bettors, at least for the time being.
The interest of online gambling operators in the Czech Republic is kept to the minimum due to the stiff tax structure. According to the registry of the Czech Ministry of Finance, as of December 6, less than a dozen online sports betting and “card game” operators have licenses allowing them to legally offer their services to residents of the country. These are predominantly locally-based operators such as Fortuna Entertainment, Sazka and Synot Tip.
The government plans to enforce the new gambling legislation by demanding Czech internet services providers to block the gambling websites of unlicensed operators. The idea was met with strong disapprobation on behalf of various online groups, including the international activist network Anonymous. As a result, the websites of several Czech government departments and elected officials were hacked as a mean of protest against what the groups deemed an online censorship.
So far, the government’s attempts to keep a tight lid on its approved online gambling products have been successful. This past September, the Czech Ministry of Finance arrived at the decision to ban licensed operators from offering their live-dealer casino products in the country. The decision was prompted by the Czech authorities’ requirement for online casino games to be governed by random number generator software rather than real croupiers.