The Association of Estonian Broadcasters (ERL), which represents private radio stations, has proposed amending the Gambling Act to increase the ceiling on the size of radio contest prize pools tenfold — from the current €1,000 to €10,000.
"The Association of Estonian Broadcasters is proposing amending the Gambling Act currently in force," ERL board chairman Toomas Vara wrote in a letter to Minister of Finance Martin Helme (EKRE). "We propose that the holders of media activity licenses issued in the Republic of Estonia have a statutory distinction under which the lottery ceiling is €10,000 instead of the current €1,000."
Vara explained that as listening to the radio accounts continues to account for less music consumption, commercial radio stations must be capable of earning supplementary income on top of ad sales, using radio contests and other similar projects aimed at radio listeners to do so.
He noted that commercial radio stations worldwide have already gone this route. In 2017, for example, commercial radio stations in England earned more than 50 percent of its revenues from special projects.
"In Estonia, the Tax and Customs Board (MTA) classifies text-based games with special rates on the radio and TV as a lottery," the board chairman said. "The Gambling Act currently in force sets strict requirements on organizers of lotteries whose prize pools exceed €1,000 in value; among other things, they must be 100 percent state-owned."
He added that the ERL believes that the current €1,000 limit is too low to give commercial radio and TV stations the chance to earn a significant amount of supplementary income and offer listeners and viewers modern and stimulating solutions.
"With this, current legislation is impeding on the natural development of broadcasting organizations," Vara said.
He cited as an example that a typical radio contest prize is a trip for 2-4 people to an artist's concert; such a prize would be impossible to fit within a limit of €1,000.
According to Vara, the ERL considers the Gambling Act in its current form to subject broadcasting organizations to unequal treatment, as the limit for commercial lottery prize pools is set at €10,000. In essence, however, there is no difference between commercial contests and contests held by broadcasting organizations, he added.
The ERL is a non-governmental nonprofit that represents the interests of radio and television organizations. The association has 11 members, including two television organizations and nine radio organizations.
Editor: Aili Vahtla