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Anne Lindner
 

Q & A: Tony Wollenberg

12 December 2002

Tony Wollenberg is a lawyer who heads the Betting and Gaming group of Salans, an international law firm. He specializes in credit betting and the worldwide enforcement of spread betting and contracts for differences, and has recently been helping his gaming clients prepare for the deregulation of gambling in the United Kingdom. IGN spoke with Wollenberg recently about what gaming companies can expect during the period before deregulation.

IGN: What are you and your team to prepare for the deregulation of the gaming industry in the United Kingdom?

Tony Wollenberg: As you know, we are due to see a major overhaul of our gambling laws here in the U.K., which have been in existence for 35 years. Included amongst that is the series of proposals for regulating the online gaming industry and the opportunity to operate in a highly regulated environment, which has a recognized gaming infrastructure and has had sophisticated gaming laws in place for such a long time.

We are seeing many of the world's leading--and by "leading" I mean most experienced and respected--online operators heading towards the U.K. and being prepared not to abandon, but to start a process of transferring their regulatory status from other less well known and less highly regarded jurisdictions.

IGN: Do you expect to see a lot of Internet gaming companies that are stationed in places like Curacao to migrate to the U.K.?

TW: That is exactly what I've been saying, yes. When I say a lot, I mean not all of them because they're not all terribly well capitalized and they don't all have aspirations to be transparent or, for example, to obtain listing here in the U.K. under the U.K. regulatory regime, but there are a number of those kinds of aspirations as a building block to what they've already achieved over the last four or five years, and those are the ones whom we are seeing.

IGN: When do you expect the online gambling situation to be cleared up in terms of U.K. law and what will the process be like?

TW: We already have a pretty clear idea of the broad shape of it because Sir Alan Budd published his proposal some time ago, and we've had a number of consultation papers and government responses since. Our expectation is that details of the government's firm intentions will appear in the Queen's speech in November 2003 and that we will see legislation in place during the course of 2004. There are transitional provisions that have already started to operate, for example, in the terrestrial world, and although those won't apply to online, we'll have a much clearer idea through the consultation process of what those are going to be during the course of 2003.

IGN: Do you think the U.K. government is moving too slowly?

TW: This is a major overhaul, and the government is showing a most enlightened approach in that there are certain other jurisdictions, which perhaps will remain nameless, that are still adopting a prohibitive stance. There was an initiative over the last year to fast-track the online aspects of the legislation on the basis that the greatest need arose, but the government, I think legitimately, felt there wasn't a case for separating the two and that it wanted composite legislation. So no, it seems like a long time, but when you consider the extent of the changes and the radical facelift which U.K. gaming will receive as a result, I think they're moving at the right pace.

IGN: What steps should gaming companies be taking at this point to prepare for the changes--companies that would like to move to the U.K., and companies that, as you said, aren't interested in more transparency?

TW: Those who aren't interested in more transparency or coming under the U.K. regulatory regime don't really need to take much notice of what's going on here, save that I would suggest that they become more marginalized once our laws come into place and various competitors fall under its umbrella. Those who do intend to come here should be thinking of insuring that they have the right level of financial security, that their directors are the kind of individuals who would pass muster under what is known as our fit and proper test for licensing and that their systems are of a type which would be able to attract a kitemark of liability that their fraud and risk detection procedures are reliable. These aspects will be considered as part of the eligibility tests for U.K. licensing ... together with, for example, appropriate money laundering procedures.

IGN: In your 25 years of experience with betting and gaming law, has anything comparable to Internet gambling come on the scene in terms of the way it confounds governments?

TW: No. This phenomenon has clearly and understandably posed serious headaches for government around the world, for the obvious reasons, because it knows no boundaries and is very difficult to police. So one has to take one's hat of the U.K. government for being prepared to take such initiative and to regulate and to license.

Q & A: Tony Wollenberg is republished from iGamingNews.com.
Anne Lindner
Anne Lindner