British online casino and sportsbetting operator William Hill has formally left the Czech Republic market only days before new legislation comes into effect that would force the London-based firm to obtain a local license before it could continue offering its services to local punters.
The Czech Republic approved its new Gambling Act in the summer and the legislation is set to come into force from January 1. Once of the measure’s provisions stipulates that any online gaming operator wishing to offer its services to local punters must first obtain a license from Czech authorities.
William Hill sent e-mails to its customers and affiliates informing them of its decision earlier this month although it simultaneously expressed confidence that it would have the opportunity to work with them in the future. Players based in the Czech Republic were asked to withdraw all of the funds in their accounts while it was requested that marketing partners remove all marketing materials that promote the London-listed operator’s products and services.
Online gambling in the Czech Republic is somewhat subdued due to the stiff tax structure with the nation’s Finance Ministry recently reporting that less than twelve sportsbetting and “card game” operators have native licenses with the majority of these been local firms such as Fortuna Entertainment Group, Sazka and Synot Group.
To enforce its new licensing regime, the Czech Republic intends to demand that local Internet service providers block all unlicensed gambling websites. This provision was met with considerable condemnation and saw international activist network Anonymous hack the websites of several government departments and elected officials in protest.
The situation for online gambling operators got even worse in September after the Finance Ministry decided to ban licensed firms from offering live-dealer products to local players and instead rule that all games must now be controlled by random number generator technology.