European Parliament conference “How to Regulate Betting and Gambling in Europe – Track record and future perspectives”
by Jana Sedlakova
Last month Commissioner Barnier’s speech affirmed the trend in Europe towards the unified understanding of certain requirements for governing the online gambling industry. Respecting “subsidiarity” as a general principle of EU law will be key. The European Parliament has accepted this and called for an EU wide regime. The single licensing regime is one of the items on the European Gaming and Betting Association’s (‘EGBA’) ‘wish list’.
Victor Chandler, for one, would support this concept. Michael Carlton, CEO at Victor Chandler commented:
“we would strongly support the concept of a single licence across the EU. As I have said previously, only proper reciprocal arrangements which would recognise licences issued in one part of the EU with the harmonisation and common standards this would require are capable of delivering a truly pan-European competitive industry with the best chances of ensuring consumer protection and the prevention of fraud. Our call is for the Commission to remain committed to this objective, rather than be diverted into protectionist agendas of individual Members States or monopolistic concerns.”
“Commissioner Barnier used the opportunity of the Parliament’s event to give MEPs, some national authorities and stakeholders an outline of the upcoming Commission’s Communication on online gambling in the Internal Market, which will include an action plan. He advocated EU action in the field of online gambling given the cross-border and even global nature of that activity and the difficulty for Member States to respond alone to the challenges that it poses.”
Michael Carlton said that the main obstacle in the current regulatory regime “is the plethora of different licensing and regulatory regimes that are cropping up in Europe. This is happening because of the lack of clear direction and harmonisation at EU level. The fragmentation and burden caused by such lack of harmonisation is not sustainable in the long run.”
To his question whether there is added value in consumer protection and appreciation of the subsidiarity principle, Barnier answered “yes, because no Member state can deal alone with all the risks associated with this activity” whilst expressing that the value added may materialise in different ways. Firstly, he said “more effectively clamping down on the many illegal websites, often hosted in offshore havens; [secondly] developing – where this is allowed – a legal alternative which is attractive enough to permanently undermine any clandestine and therefore unregulated offers; [and thirdly] it can – and must – also take the form of support measures to prevent any undesirable drift that could stem from an uncontrolled development of online betting and gambling.”
As part of fraud prevention a proposal to extend the Money Laundering Directive to gambling and betting was announced.
Michael Carlton, of Victor Chandler said “we support the extension of these anti-money laundering requirements to gambling and betting. We believe all measures that will ensure that this industry continues to be licensed and regulated in the best possible fashion must be positive and that the position of Gibraltar as a premier jurisdiction in the sector is maintained and enhanced.”
Concerning the integrity of sport a ban of certain betting types on some sports has been proposed.
Concerning infringements relating to the Internal market RGA in their press release stated that the Commission has not made any formal decision since February 2008, “apart from the closure of some of them. This inaction means that none of the eleven Member States that were the object of an infringement procedure in 2008 have been taken to the ECJ. Furthermore, the Commission has not proceeded so far with any of the internal market complaints lodged by the online gambling industry against other Member States’ gambling laws.”
Michael Carlton said that “we would like to see the European Commission engaged more proactively in supporting the single market. The online gaming sector is one example of an industry in which European companies genuinely lead the way at a global level. This runs a real risk of being severely undermined by the lack of an EU-wide framework. Whilst we, therefore, fully support administrative cooperation among Member States to increase consumer protection and prevent fraud, we look forward to the Commission moving towards Member States adopting a competitive, European-wide licensing and regulatory regime. We see no reason why online gaming should not be a service capable of being provided on a full cross-border basis with reciprocal recognition of licences being the norm as is the case with financial services and other areas of economic activity where the rights of consumers and integrity issues are equally of fundamental importance.”