SBC News Romania ONJN buzzed by hairstylist’s VP appointment

Romania ONJN buzzed by hairstylist’s VP appointment

The government of Romania has sparked controversy in the gambling industry by appointing Cristian-Gabriel Pascu as the Vice-President of the National Gambling Office (ONJN).

The government gazette published yesterday disclosed that the Ministry of Finance had selected Pascu, a celebrity hairstylist and beauty salon owner, to serve as the VP of the ONJN.

The announcement set off a media storm as it came to light that Pascu lacks experience and training in the gambling sector, and has a limited political profile, having only served as a local councillor for the National Liberal Party (PNL) since 2021.

Pascu’s appointment by the Ministry of Finance positions him as the second-in-command at the ONJN, where his duties will involve enforcing the Office’s supervisory rulings on gambling operations and penalties.

Critics have argued that Pascu’s appointment reflects the cronyism within President Marcel Ciolacu‘s ‘fragile coalition’, established last year between the Social Democratic Party (PSD) and the PNL.

Pascu admitted to having “no specific experience in the field of gambling” but expressed that the government has entrusted him to serve at the ONJN due to his successful entrepreneurial background.

“I have managed many companies in various sectors. I earned a law degree and have diverse business experiences. Generally, in all my endeavors, I strive to perform to the best of my abilities,” Pascu informed the local press.

The pressure is mounting on President Ciolacu to justify the appointment of a VP to a government agency overseeing “820 businesses in the gambling industry that generated €400m in taxes,” as reported in the 2022 financial statements of the Ministry of Finance.

In 2022 and 2023, Romania’s Parliament approved amendments to the Fiscal Codes of Gambling’, increasing tax brackets for all gambling segments, both land-based and online.

Moreover, Parliament endorsed an ONJN recommendation that starting January 2025, all licensed entities must set aside a minimum of €1m for licensing provisions, “regardless of their income level.”

The Ministry of Finance in 2024 has opted for stricter enforcement of tax collections, mandating businesses to remit their tax contributions to the ONJN within “five working days following the collection month.”

Elected in July 2023, President Ciolacu is faced with the formidable challenge of preserving a PSD/PNL coalition government. This alliance will undergo rigorous testing as Romania gears up for four pivotal elections for the European Parliament, local councils, national Parliament, and the Presidential office.

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