In June 2011 GBGC wrote about the e-G8 and G8 meetings held in France and President Sarkozy’s comments on the regulation of the Internet (A Regulation Too Far For E-gaming). Sarkozy was keen to press for the need to tighter regulate the Internet, which France feels is chaotic and does not provide sufficient assurances for privacy and copyright protection.
As the world wide web developed in the 1990s governments showed little interest in regulating the Internet but in recent years have become more demanding of a say in shaping the future of Internet regulation.
This new government interest influencing the Internet is clearly seen in the remote gambling sector. Back in 2006 the Italian government issued a “black list” of gambling related URLs that had to be blocked by Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in Italy. The government wanted to gain greater control of Internet gambling by forcing companies to run .IT websites rather than .COM, .CO.UK etc.
France has subsequently copied elements of this Italian model for Internet gambling and companies wishing to operate in France must have a .FR website. The French gambling regulator ARJEL has placed responsibility on ISPs to block online gambling websites that do not have a licence in France. ARJEL threatened the ISPs with fines of EUR 100,000 per day until access is blocked and the websites are removed from search results. The burden of governance is already being placed on intermediaries, such as ISPs, by governments. It is not necessarily a desirable development.
One result of the US action in April 2011 was that several Internet gambling firms switched from .COM to .EU domains in an effort to get a bit of protection from any further sudden interference from the US authorities.
It was reported in October 2011 that Verisign, the US-based registrar for .COM, wants the power to be able to shut down what it labelled “non-legitimate” domain names if requested by the relevant law enforcement authorities. In a document sent to ICANN, Verisign wants these powers in order “to comply with any applicable court orders, laws, government rules or requirements, requests of law enforcement or other governmental or quasi-governmental agency, or any dispute resolution process”. In the past it has been stated that all .COM domains fall under the jurisdiction of the United States but Verisign believes that these powers would be international in their scope.
If governments, particularly the US government, continue to seek a greater role in the governance of the Internet it will lead to over-regulation and, as the Internet gambling sector already knows, that is not a good situation for legitimate businesses.