Special Report of the Audit Office for 2018 – The Authority welcomes constructive feedback

The National Betting Authority has received and is currently assessing the Audit Office’s 2018 report on the Authority’s activities.

First, we would like to state that the report has in some respects considered the position of the Authority, which was requested by the Audit Office prior to the report’s publication.

Moreover, the report comments extensively on the issue of tax returns (not betting tax) and whether or not companies regulated by the Authority are compliant. It is evident that this matter does not fall within the competences of the Authority and it is our position that, any tax issues should be addressed towards the Commissioner of Taxation. The report’s comments and recommendations indicate that the Authority has fulfilled its obligations to the maximum, hence any further action would have been beyond its powers and would have interfered with responsibilities of the Commissioner of Taxation. Finally, we would like to stress that to the best of our knowledge, our operators are fully compliant with the provisions of the National Law.

In regard to the remaining main findings of the Audit Office’s report, the Authority’s comments, which essentially were sent to the Audit Office as direct quotations, are presented below:

  • Issuance and/or renewal of licenses: In principle, the Authority does not issue or renew any operator’s license, unless the required documents have been submitted in accordance with the relevant license applications. Exceptionally, in cases where the applicant, due to no fault of his own and for reasons specified by the Authority, is not able to submit certain documents between the date of the application’s submission and the Authority’s decision, the license is issued subject to the condition of submitting the relevant documents within a specified time frame. During the application procedure, the Authority takes into consideration the General Principle of Administrative Law.
  • Time limit for the submission of an application (betting shops): The Authority carries out regular reminders to the licensees to submit their application for renewal within the time period defined in article 18(2) of the Law, by which the majority of our licensees comply without any delay. Otherwise, the licensees are informed that any delayed application submission may lead to a delayed assessment of the application. This may result in the temporary closure of the betting premises until the license is issued.
  • Bank guarantee: When evaluating and assessing the operators’ financial statements, the Authority focuses especially on the increase of the bank guarantee, taking into account the company’s exposure, as well as a number of other relevant data. The purpose is to ensure the company’s solvency and guarantee the paying of winnings to the players. It is noted that, the amount of bank guarantee required by the Betting Law is one of the highest in a European level.
  • Illegal provision of services: The Authority does not have the power to prosecute illegal services according to the Law. This is the responsibility of the competent prosecuting authorities of the Republic. The Authority has been cooperating with the prosecuting authorities for the last four (4) years, in accordance with the provisions of the Law. It is noted that, since 2017, the Authority has carried out on-site inspections twice a month on each licensed betting premises, which resulted in a significant reduction of violations and illegal betting premises.
  • Rental of offices: First, it should be noted that, the Authority’s office was located within the Ministry of Finance for several years and has been operating without an adequate number of employees due to the lack of space. In a timeframe of two (2) years, the Authority has conducted four (4) tenders and had to overcome a number of obstacles in its pursuit of an appropriate building at the most favorable rent price. At the end of 2018 there was no further room for delay, since the lack of space was obstructing the implementation of the Authority’s ongoing projects and responsibilities, while it was jeopardizing the effectiveness of the Authority’s regulatory role. The second out of the two offers of the last tender, had a slighter lower cost or rental, but nonetheless, presented significant inadequacies. As a result, the Authority would have to invest a respectable amount of money for the necessary improvements and alterations. Furthermore, the said building did not have a parking space, which was a condition of the tender procurement.

In conclusion, our goal was and remains the continuous improvement of the procedures and the performance of the Authority, and in this aspect the Audit Office’s report will be duly noted.