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European Gaming and Betting Association (EGBA) sets out its expectations of the Commission’s upcoming Communication on online gambling

Date

25 Jun 2012

Sections

Health & Consumers

In advance of a high-level event to discuss the regulation of online gambling to be held on 27 June in the European Parliament, the EGBA - representing private online gambling operators based, regulated and taxed in the EU - sets out its expectations for the European Commission’s forthcoming Communication and Action Plan on the online gambling market. 

Speaking ahead of this event at which Internal Market Commissioner Barnier will speak publicly about online gambling for the first time since his appearance at the Parliament last November, Sigrid Ligné, Secretary General of EGBA, said: “European demand for online gambling services continues to grow. As with other areas of eCommerce, European consumers have been voting with a mouse-click. If there is no legal framework to permit popular products to come to market, consumers can be expected to turn to unlicensed and unregulated operators, with all the associated risks. Greater coordination between member states is therefore vital to ensure effective regulation and protection for consumers”.

The EGBA praised Commissioner Barnier for helping to refuel the EU policy debate on online gambling through his Green Paper consultation and the launch of expert workshops to establish the facts in relation to key but emotive issues such as the prevalence of problem gambling (see link).

The EGBA also saluted the European Parliament report (the so-called Creutzmann report) adopted in November 2011 (see link), which:

- acknowledges for the first time that national stand-alone solutions are not suitable for tackling the cross-border dimension of the sector, not least consumer protection, and calls for the adoption of an EU framework for online gambling;

- urges the European Commission as ‘guardian of the treaties’ to combat protectionist regimes and swiftly pursue infringement proceedings, some of which have been pending since 2008.

Sigrid Ligné continued: “No economic sector can survive in a climate of sustained legal uncertainty. Certain national regimes are clearly at odds with the treaty-based “red lines” which seek to combat protectionist bias, and the situation is only getting worse. Some have even gone as far as to introduce criminal sanctions against EU operators and consumers on the back of legislation which manifestly violates EU law – yet the Commission does nothing.  Without Commission action now, certain member states will continue to consider that they have “carte blanche” to do as they please.”

The EGBA also pointed to the need for administrative cooperation between member states in order to build mutual trust. The current lack of structured communication has resulted in a proliferation of rules, costly duplication of controls and requirements, but also loopholes and inconsistencies in the way European consumers are protected. To ensure that administrative cooperation is carried out effectively, the EU must establish a legal obligation, and an agreed channel, for member states to give each other mutual assistance. The emergence by stealth of 27 “mini-markets” for online gambling is harming consumers by restricting choice, fostering a burgeoning ‘black market’ and failing to provide a commercially viable framework for this major segment of the digital economy.  This simply cannot be the way forward.

Finally, EGBA called for overarching EU-wide legislation for online gambling, as there is for virtually all other tradable service. Today, online gambling already falls, or will fall, under the scope of a number of EU rules, such as on data protection, e-signatures and e-ID, public concessions and on take-down and notice of illegal content. But there is currently no EU-level sectorial directive for gambling. EU legislation would and should realise the dual objective of providing consumers with a consistently high level of protection throughout the EU, and ensuring fair market access for licensed operators.

Sigrid Ligné said: “Our end goal is of course a single licence or passport for online gambling, as exists in other sectors. But a practical start should be made now by the Commission proposing a harmonisation of targeted licensing requirements, common technical standards and reporting tools, and common consumer protection standards based on the workshop agreement published in 2011 by the European standardisation body CEN. These are not pie-in-the-sky expectations. They are the bare-bones solution to get us nearer to an EU system which keeps consumers safe wherever they are in the EU, helps curb the activity of illicit operators, provides a level playing field for EU-based, EU-regulated and EU-taxed operators, and produces much needed revenue for EU exchequers at a crucial time for the European economy”.

– END –

For more information, please contact:

Sigrid Ligné: +32 2 554 08 90, egba@egba.eu

Notes for editors

Fragmentation of European e-commerce has a cost. Completion and deepening of the digital single market could produce an extra four percent of GDP growth over the next ten years, and easier cross-border e-commerce alone could bring savings of €2.5 billion. Also, fragmentation of the market exposes consumers to a wide range of risks. Harmonisation of consumer protection rules and the creation of an attractive legal offer across all member states is therefore the only practical way forward.

The online gambling market is no exception. Europe represents an estimated 45 percent of the global online gambling market and the EU needs to deliver a proper European policy response, one that fosters a commercially viable framework that will ensure that Europe maintains its lead in the world of eGaming. With many now expecting the opening of the US market in the not too distant future, a market that is likely to remain the preserve of US corporations, our current EU-based champions of the sector may well be swallowed up by the US-based behemoths of tomorrow with all the consequences this will bring for Europe’s digital economy and skill-base.

About EGBA

The EGBA is an association of leading European gaming and betting operators Bet-at-home.com, BetClic, bwinparty, Digibet, Expekt, Interwetten, and Unibet. EGBA is a Brussels-based non-profit association. It promotes the right of private gaming and betting operators that are regulated and licensed in one Member State to a fair market access throughout the European Union. Online gaming and betting is a fast growing market, but will remain for the next decades a limited part of the overall European gaming market in which the traditional land based offer is expected to grow from € 71.9 Billion GGR in 2010 to € 79 Billion GGR in 2015, thus keeping the lion’s share with 85% of the market. Source: H2 Gambling Capital, September 2011. www.egba.eu 

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