A little quiz. What is the connection between these three dates: 01/Dec/2011, 22/May/2012 and 17/Dec/2012?
Well, those were the supposed launch dates for the new sports betting site by Hungary’s state-owned gambling company, Szerencsejatek.
And no, it’s still not running.
Possessing a nationwide monopoly on internet betting in Hungary, these delays mean that the local punters’ money is saying good-bye to the country and relocating to offshore betting sites instead of being wagered on a domestic site. While these foreign sites are illegal, there are no sanctions that can be applied to them.
Recent changes to Hungarian gambling laws have opened the way for a limited number of online sports betting licenses to be issued, but the associated concession fees have been deemed prohibitive by the industry.
Since a company would need different licenses to set up online sportsbooks, Hungarian poker rooms or internet casinos, the fee is even more prohibitive taking into consideration the limited size of the domestic market. As a result, Szerencsejatek remains the sole legal provider of sports betting services, but the company is clearly not delivering.
Rumors abound among industry bloggers of the incompetence by Italian supplier GTech, which may be to blame for not having anything to show in such a long time. Considering the company’s international presence and expertise, it is difficult to comprehend how such a situation could have come about.
It is certain, though, that the contractor was already forced to repay around 82% of the contract value in damages. Even so, GTech has a strong motivation to complete the job, since the contract also stipulates that the company would then operate the system and collect the revenues.
So, when will Hungarians be able to bet through the new, modern, superb betting site?
Although Szerencsejatek is silent on the issue – this is hardly surprising, having missed so many projected deadlines – the contract provides some pointers. Taking into consideration a worst case scenario for every possible stage of the project, every possible extended deadline will expire by the early days of June. This means that at that point there will either be a live system or an ex-contractor.
This latter possibility would mean a further loss of revenue for Szerencsejatek, as Hungarians would continue betting through foreign sites.
Of course there is always the option of renegotiating the contract to prolong the agony.