Martin Lycka: From the abyss of agony to the peak of ecstasy… and sometimes back!

Martin Lycka

In his monthly column for SBC, Martin Lycka, Entain’s Senior Vice President of US Regulatory Affairs & Responsible Gambling, believes cake is in order for some of those regulatory regimes that have turned agony into ecstasy…

Dear reader, 

I can hardly believe that I am welcoming you to the third season of my SBC column. but here we are at column number 25 (who’s counting?) and trust me when I say that these words do not always come easy. 

Granted, gambling regulation is an ever-evolving topic, and cynically speaking, a gift that never stops giving; in most cases, rather sizeable helpings of negativity and desolation. Yet, the regulatory stories are all rather similar and crafting them into semi-jovial words can be a challenge. Sometimes It can be a true agony. 

And yet, the agony may suddenly turn into ecstasy. In these bizarre twists of history, these momentous occasions, a victory is snatched from the jaws of defeat; or in football parlance, it is simply someone’s year. Just like it is a cracking feeling to finish one of my articles on moving the regulatory dial, in particular after years of stagnation, is thrilling. 

This year’s agony to ecstasy celebration cake is so far going to Canada and the Netherlands. More adventurous minds would perhaps argue that Germany and the states of Florida and New York should share it, too. Their respective cakes are, I would suggest, just a little stale though as sometimes, on the field of regulatory glory, the dizzy heights of agony may be followed by a more sober, or even crude, awakening. 

The Flying Dutchmen and -women finally seem to have found a safe haven on their rather erratic and protracted journey towards taming online gambling regulation. After years of detours, litigation, and let’s be honest, a tiny bit of bad blood, the licensing process had its grand opening earlier this year. Not all operators have got the nod to step through the gate just yet as some of them continue serving their time in the sin bin, but even the yellow-carded ones will get their chance to cater for the regulated Dutch market soon enough.

In a similar vein, and thanks to a near-heroic effort of a consortium of supporters and especially the brave Kevin Waugh MP, Canada has finally done away with the long overdue ban on single sports wagering. As a result, gone are the days of having to identify the safest bet – for example that the sun will rise tomorrow or that Connor McDavid will win the NHL points scoring crown – and combining it with another, arguably riskier, bet to form a parlay. The path now appears to be clear for Ontario to launch its envisaged regulatory regime with a full suite of products. 

Young Werters like agony of German regulation turned into a rather subdued and potentially short-lived ecstasy when the “Sixteen” agreed on new regulation that for the first time ever intended to allow for all online product verticals. Yet, the regulation comes associated with a set of restrictions whose impact might be further magnified by a controversial turnover tax on online poker and slots. It is yet to be seen where the sore story goes but first indications appear to be showing that some of the latest developments are rather playing into the hands of black-market operators. 

Both New York and Florida have given mobile sports betting a chance; both in their own specific way, it must be said. This is of course very welcome news. Yet, the regulatory door is somewhat ajar in both states. I am sure that we will all be very closely watching how the upcoming tender and negotiating processes unfold and whether they can affect the approach of the other two previously sleeping giants of California and Texas to their own regulation. 

All in all, dear reader, it might be dreary, but gambling regulation is never black and white and most definitely not dull (especially if that’s how one makes a living). It clearly still has the roller coaster quality about it that will never cease to amaze us. On that note, have a great, agony-free, summer. 

_____________

The statements made in relation to this article, do not necessarily reflect the opinions held by Entain Plc.

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