2013: Peering Over The E-Gaming Horizon
Interview with Sigrid Ligne (EGBA) and Clive Hawkswood (RGA)
Casting amongst the tea leaves for 2013, recent developments in the European Union suggest more re-regulation to come in the new year and also that there may be some positive developments in dealings with the infringement cases, some of which go back to 2008. Sigrid Ligne, Secretary General at European Gaming and Betting Association, and Clive Hawkswood, CEO at Remote Gaming Association, have given their opinions to Global Betting and Gaming Consultants on what might happen in 2013 and reflect on some of the events in 2012 that will impact the industry in the long term.
Summarising the steps that have been taken at EU level in 2012 in regulating the remote gambling industry and considering the greatest impacts on the industry, Sigrid Ligne believed that there were positive turns in the last year. She said: “2012 has proved an important year for the European online gambling sector. Despite the enforcement of unsustainable gambling legislations in certain jurisdictions such as Germany, Greece and Belgium, significant progress has been made in the gambling policy debate at EU level.”
“As evidenced in the EC [European Commission] Communication on online gambling (October 2012) we have moved away in only two years from a very emotional discussion to a debate where most issues are now addressed on a constructive and factual basis. Economic considerations are part of the EU policy equation with the European Commission acknowledging for the first time the sector’s contribution to European economy and to innovation and also the need to develop an attractive and competitive legal market across Europe. Importantly, the European Commission also recognizes that administrative cooperation is required to reduce unnecessary administrative burdens, in particular in the authorisation process and the supervision of operators authorised in more than one jurisdiction. Last but not least, after years of limbo and even concerns that infringement cases would be closed, the Commission has publicly committed itself to take action against Member States whose national legislation does not comply with the ECJ case-law. The Commission has already initiated contacts with a number of Member States and the first hard action is expected in 2013.”
Clive Hawkswood commented: “I think it remains to be seen whether the work done by the Commission on the Green Paper and subsequent Communication will have any lasting impact. At an EU level the decision has been taken not to pursue harmonisation or to legislate. Instead the aim seems to be much more about fostering co-operation between regulators and promoting common standards of consumer protection. Both of these aims are no doubt worthwhile, but the greatest long term impact will be if the Commission now presses ahead with action against the twenty or so Member States that they believe may not be compliant with EU law.”
Addressing Commissioner Barnier’s steps to tackle the infringement cases issues this year Sigrid Ligne expressed the belief that these will bring further positive changes in 2013. She commented: “We have all reason to believe that hard actions will be taken by the European Commission in 2013. The current situation is unsustainable and the Court of Justice of the EU has developed substantial jurisprudence on how the Treaty applies to national gambling laws, further refining the “red lines” against which the European Commission must now take action. The European Commission has also the strong political backing of the European Parliament which is calling on the Commission to pursue infringement proceedings that have been pending since 2008 and to act swiftly upon receipt of complaints.”
Clive Hawkswood added: “I certainly hope they [Commissioner Barnier’s steps to deal with the infringement cases] will, but many years of experience of dealing with the Commission and monitoring what it really does to compel Member States to comply does not fill me with great confidence.”
Discussing what will be the most significant changes that the industry can expect to be undertaking in 2013 Sigrid addressed with saying that “national re-regulation will continue to be the focus of our attention in 2013. A number of jurisdictions are expected to move away from unsustainable monopolistic models and will, therefore, bring new business opportunities.”
Sigrid continued: “The Commission’s leadership in developing targeted actions and the strict enforcement of EU law will prove essential to ensure a first level of convergence of national legislation and Member State compliance with the Treaties. We expect in particular that the reactivation of complaints and infringement procedures will help restoring much needed legal certainty for our sector in Europe. Unjustified restrictions and protectionist regimes have been hampering the sustainability of EU operators for far too long. The 4th revision of the AML Directive and the adoption by the European Commission in 2013 of Recommendations on common consumer protection and responsible advertising also represent positive first steps towards an EU harmonised market for online gambling.”
Mobile gaming has undoubtedly improved its development speed which has now become key in most businesses. Answering the question what the industry can expect in 2013, Clive Hawkswood expressed that it can certainly anticipate an increase in mobile gaming. He said that the industry can expect “continued expansion of mobile gambling and with it products that are tailor-made for smart phones and tablets. It will also be the first full year of social gambling (as opposed to social gaming) so we will begin to see whether its potential can be realised. As for newer licensing jurisdictions, Germany’s new regime should come into force: on paper it is a huge market and so of great importance to the industry, but unless they revisit the planned tax regime and the very unwieldy regulatory system it is hard to see anyone making a real success of it.”
Considering wider issues Clive Hawkswood added: “Looking further afield, the introduction of a licensing regime for online poker in Nevada is a huge step forward for the US market and it will only be a matter of time before others follow suit, hopefully with provision for online casinos as well. The online betting market is also thriving in Australia under their licensing model, while the Danish and Spanish regimes are bedding in nicely so growth is becoming truly international. The most negative themes have remained largely unchanged. They tend to centre around both the accidental and deliberate misunderstanding by governments of the industry’s economic model (how else could anyone account for the introduction of a 15% turnover tax in Bulgaria?); protectionist moves to deny access to markets (such as the recently announced extension of OPAP’s monopoly in Greece to cover online gambling); the reluctance of regulators to rely on each other’s standards and the unwarranted additional costs that this forces on the industry; and completely unfounded myths about the licensed industry, for example that it is responsible for undermining the integrity of sports and is a hotbed of money laundering.”
Wishing all our readers at GBGC.com a very merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year.