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BETWEEN POST-PANDEMIC THOUGHTS AND FUTURE PLANS
By Teodora Luca
Mihai Cătălin LUCA Law Office
The opportunity to host the editorial of the 145th issue of Casino Life & Business Magazine seemed like the perfect opportunity to share with readers, at the end of the COVID-19 epidemic, the experiences of our clients, summarizes the lessons we have been enriched by, while sharing the joy of overcoming what still seems to be the hardest experience of our generation and some of our plans for the future.
In these moments, when the plans to celebrate success are overshadowed by the dawn of new crises, which foreshadow between us, of which the social one is in full swing, the most important test is again that of solidarity, which is also proved by this given the effective remedy for combating the suffering of our fellow men.
The lesson of solidarity has been deepened, has it not, in the last two years, when joint efforts have succeeded in changing the course of the epidemic.
Of course, it is not unimportant to mention that gambling organizers were among the first companies to support, either individually or through professional organizations, the efforts of the medical staff directly involved in the fight against the SAR-CoV2 virus. Whether it was donations of money and products or psychological support for patients and medical staff, their contribution was significant from the very first moment of awareness that Wuhan was no longer just a small town in China, too far away to influence life on Romanian plans.
It was also about solidarity and empathy, about caring for others at the beginning of the state of emergency, when all the efforts of our customers and, implicitly, ours in a time of unprecedented crisis, were focused on identifying security methods of investment, without neglecting the effects of the crisis on employees and partners, so that all measures were applied only to the extent that they did not create major imbalances.
State of emergency, restrictions, state of alert, suspension of activity, government decisions, proposals of new and too-powerful authorities (county emergency committees), serious stuttering of central authorities, corrections of normative acts too often and which sometimes it creates more confusions, other restrictions, mask, certificates, tests …
Passed. We won.
At the organizational level, in the balance of the challenges we have faced in recent years, we must necessarily include (perhaps also because of the major psychological impact it had on all) the SARS-CoV 2 pandemic, which has taken us all by surprise, both by the novelty of the phenomenon and by the complexity of the legal situations it entailed.
The need to adapt immediately to the new legal reality imposed by the restrictions was the first challenge of the pandemic. The state of emergency, the total quarantine, the closure of economic activities, were situations that no one on the team had ever experienced, neither as a life experience, nor as a legal experience, nor as a case experience.
The fact that we had to adapt in a short time to exceptional situations and all the regulations of such situations was, without a doubt, the most difficult moment we experienced in the pandemic, because we always had to be prepared to support ourselves more efficient customers in order to have a correct and permanent information and to offer them the best solutions to face as easily as possible the difficulties imposed by the pandemic.
All this involved a constant follow-up and analysis of the legislation, a permanent connection with the client, a permanent relationship with the regulators in order to formulate support proposals and a permanent communication and consultation within the team to identify optimal strategies and solutions.
The novelty of legal phenomena, the huge flow of regulation, the desire to help in the most efficient way the clients whose business was affected, were challenges that we faced for 2 years and that we overcame in first stage, in a state of emergency, with great emotional loads.
The very large volume of regulation, followed by an equally large volume of changes to the initial regulations, the famous extensions of the state of alert about which it was almost never known what new restrictions will bring or remove, the regulation of incidence rates whose value undergoing many changes, including or excluding activities that are restricted or suspended in certain circumstances, created a general state of anxiety both among the recipients of the regulations and among the team members tasked with following all these regulations and to provide support for their proper application.
We will not miss the late night press releases, the Official Monitors announcing regulations that have already entered into force, the pressure to analyze quickly before, but without mistake crooked normative acts, some of them in clear contradiction with basic legal notions.
Looking at the full side of the glass, we believe that this period also gave us valuable lessons.
We understand, better than ever, that the most valuable resource we make available to our customers is us. And we are a solid team that can work together even when we are not together, that trust is the cornerstone of any relationship (whether we are talking about the lawyer-client relationship or collegiality) and that we lack the time spent together.
It has also helped us to realize that no challenge is impossible when we work together, and that allows us to provide our customers with creative solutions and high quality services.
What is, in our opinion, the biggest success in the gambling industry in the last 2 years? The changing, through professionalism and consistency, the authorities’ perception of the gambling industry.
In a state where the authorities, starting with the highest level and culminating in the licensing authority, are often surprised by the fact that gambling is legal and, moreover, it is Strictly monitored and controlled, the slippage of some of the public figures who have launched unfounded accusations against all gambling organizers or the reluctance to provide equal support to other taxpayers should not have surprised us.
Although it seems at this time that the situation of licensed gambling companies could and should have been clearer and better regulated, we firmly believe that the joint efforts of professional associations and private operators have been successful.
For those who will raise an eyebrow at this statement, I invite you to remember that, although it may seem incredible, no further than two years ago, considerable fights took place and much ink was spilled in an attempt to convince the authorities (and sometimes even recognized voices in the industry) that gambling organizers benefit from the facilities provided by Government Emergency Ordinance no. 29/2020 and may postpone the payment of budget receivables just like any other taxpayer; to the same extent, it seemed unlikely that the measures with the role of social protection instituted according to the Government Emergency Ordinance no. 30/2020 to be applied for gambling organizers as well.
The measures dedicated to industry, adopted by Government Emergency Ordinance no. 48/2020 and then by Government Emergency Ordinance no. 106/2020 gave rise to controversies and controversies between the authorities and the business environment, but also between specialists, some provisions being still the subject of debates.
I experienced deep disappointment when I found that, in the name of the public interest, but without proper justification, constitutional rights were completely ignored by the authorities or that, taking advantage of the fact that far too long judicial proceedings did not allow for judicial protection appropriate and immediate review of human rights, thus giving the authorities the measure of their inability to manage the crisis.
We welcomed and even celebrated the court decisions that led to flagrant injustices, which strengthened our confidence that the judiciary has the necessary maturity to sanction acts of violation of constitutional rules or other slippage of the authorities during this period and to contribute thus to the professionalization of the public service for the benefit of all.
We are aware that these steps must continue in the future and we have allocated the necessary resources to support our clients in obtaining fair compensation for situations in which their rights have been violated without any justification.
The reluctance with which some of the operators received the adoption of the new regulations in the field of gambling, referring to the adoption of the technical conditions for verifying the means of gambling and the sectoral rules for the implementation of Law 129/2019, recently entered into force is justified , in our opinion, solely on the grounds that, after a period in which activity has been severely affected by restrictions, the deployment of significant financial resources may not be possible.
Although so far the National Gambling Office has consistently refused to apply the law both in spirit and in its letter, preferring the easy solutions already delivered by the normative act, we are confident that the authority will soon realize its role much more in the gambling market, paying close attention to guiding the taxpayer for compliance and circumscribing his actions to ensure a fair market, with concerns that the business should be in line with the principles of gambling social responsibility.
Increasing the level of transparency at the level of the authority and the application of unitary procedures are also on our waiting list.
Last but not least, we believe that the challenges for gambling organizers have not been fully overcome and that it will be necessary for the National Gambling Office to establish, to the extent permitted by law, procedures to enforce the law in its spirit, not only in its letter, especially as regards the coercive measures applied during this period. We do not encourage or try to justify possible violations of the law, we just want the applied measures to be individualized more carefully, especially in cases where they justify the application of complementary measures, which especially in the present context, can lead to the disappearance from the market of operators who have real chances of targeting.
We cannot deny the involvement of the authorities in managing the gambling situation in times of acute crisis and the efforts to include licensed companies in the list of beneficiaries of support measures.
March marks, in addition to the end of the state of alert, the anniversary of the “Luca Mihai Cătălin” Law Office.
The desire to bring together ambitious people, with a passion for law and the legal profession, with a penchant for people and dedicated to the mission that the lawyer has in society has guided our professional path since its inception, and because we have not given up never from the fundamental values of the legal profession, we can firmly state that the reality that represents us at the moment is precisely the accomplishment of what determined our establishment in 2013.
Ever since its inception, we have always been aware of the implications of practicing law, and we have always sought to find the most appropriate formulas for both our clients and us as a team.
We are always with our clients, we dedicate ourselves to every project in which we engage with maximum loyalty and seriousness, we pay special attention to every step we take, we analyze every request with pragmatism and creativity and we surpass ourselves every time.
As a team, the qualities that define us are the enthusiasm, mutual support, collegiality and willingness to pool our resources to identify the most appropriate solutions for our customers, and therefore the feeling of each of us is that we are, above all, a team that works in a spirit of mutual respect and friendship.
Most of our mandates are to assist clients in the field of gambling and we are glad that this specialization provides us with extraordinary professional challenges in other fields, which combine so many other subjects of law, such as civil law, labor law, law tax, legislation on the protection of personal data, legislation on preventing and combating money laundering or incidental legislation in the field of marketing.
The fact that we have matured together with the gambling industry in our country and that we have contributed to this maturation with all our efforts since the early period of gambling in Romania is for us the culmination of our work and involvement.
The fact that we are more united and more prepared than ever to face the challenges strengthens our conviction that our adventure is, in fact, just beginning, and that the accumulated practice will give us the opportunity to continue to perform with the same energy, dedication, devotion, to which we add the experience gained.