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European Union Commission urged to clarify gambling's EU legal status

There are indications that some European Union politicians are not averse to seeking "exceptions" to the core EU principle of "free movement of goods and services between member nations." Specifically there are those who have tried to fly the idea that online gambling is an "economic activity of a particular nature" - a possible thin-end-of-the wedge approach to hamstring the enforcement activities of the European Commission and thereby shield state monopolies anxious to preserve their priveleged and protected status.
 
This week the European Parliament and the EU Council of Ministers called on the European Commission to 'initiate a dialogue' with a view to reaching political agreement on the legal status of gambling in Europe.
 
The Commission, under the energetic and respected Charlie McCreevy, is charged with safeguarding and enforcing the core EU principles, and it has been active in warning and guiding exclusive state monopolies

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on the path to compliance, sometimes with the threat of an appearance before the European Court of Justice. The activity has resulted in European Court of Justice (ECJ) rulings on the issue and several Commission infringement procedures against member states to verify whether national measures limiting the cross-border supply of online gambling services are compatible with Article 49 of the EC Treaty, which guarantees the free movement of services.
 
However politicians with perhaps national interests front-of-mind rather than the true spirit of EU membership have been debating the issue at some length, and there is little doubt that some EU sports ministers want games of chance excised from the services directive, allowing the state monopolies to maintain the status quo.
 
Both the European Parliament and the Council have taken non-legislative initiatives in recent months on this highly sensitive issue, which clearly impacts both taxation and the continued non-competitive prosperity of state-owned monopolies within national boundaries, without preventing them from branching out into the international market.
 
In December last year, the French EU Presidency presented a review of the legal framework and policies in EU member states on gambling and betting, apparently to stimulate debate at EU political levels on related cross-border issues. Shortly after, and following extensive discussion and amendment, the Parliament's internal market and consumer protection committee adopted an own-initiative report by a Danish MEP (see previous InfoPowa reports) on the integrity of Online gambling .
 
The publication EurActiv opines that once the EU Parliament adopts the report in plenary next week, despite the opposition of Britain and Malta, the Commission will have been sent two political signals. As the Finnish permanent representation counsellor Harri Syväsalmi told EurActiv this week: "A smart listener will act accordingly."
 
However, McCreevy's office remains unintimidated, with a spokesman responding to a EurActiv request for comment, saying that the only initiative related to gambling she knew of was "the next round of infringement cases!"
 
EurActive reports that legal expert Philippe Vlaemminck of Vlaemminck & Partners has taken a view on the issue, favouring a political rather than judicial solution. "Even the European Court of Justice has said it does not want to rule on something that is political," he told the publication.
 
Vlaemminck suggests that one way forward could be to first recognise that "gambling is an economic activity of a particular nature" and that member states must be able to maintain their own objective criteria on what is acceptable and, while respecting EU law, decide upon a taxation and operational structure: be that prohibition, monopoly or licensing.
 
Any political solution to gambling should be based on the four fundamental principles of the European architecture: subsidiarity, solidarity, integrity and precaution, Vlaemminck opined. "These principles need to be taken into account so that a political solution can be found," the lawyer said.
 
Online gambling operators currently pay taxes to the country in which they are domiciled, even though their services and therefore profits may be made in another country. The main host countries of cross-border online gambling service providers are thus heavily opposed to any move towards taxing gambling activities in the country where it takes place, reports EurActiv. The French have apparently made provision for collecting taxes from online gambling companies operating in the soon-to-be-liberated French gambling market.

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Gambling News :

Interwetten 2016 Earnings Results - Privately-owned online sports betting operator Interwetten delivered robust full year results for the 2016 fiscal period, in which the company has almost achieved doubling its revenues over the past four years, success it attributes to its in-house developed platform

EU Online Gambling Tax Harmoney Dead - Tax expert says European Court of Justice Attorney General's opinion on UK-Gibraltar litigation signals that EU courts are happy for individual member states to impose their own laws on online gambling.

Jack Lam Facing Big Fines in the Philippines - It's going to be costly for Macau online gambling and junket tycoon Jack Lam to return to the Philippines following his rather hurried departure last year with allegations of economic sabotage, bribery and tax evasion swirling around him.

Walter Merricks Term As Gambing Commissioner Extended - The UK Government has extended Walter Merricks’ term as Commissioner of the Gambling Commission for a further year, ending December 31, 2017.

Loot’enKhamun Pays $3.8 Million Jackpot - A London-based construction worker’s year got off to a great start when he hit the Loot’enKhamun jackpot at bwin casino.

PlaySugarHouse To Carry Konami Content - Content provider Konami will provide its Gypsy Fire and Fortune Stacks slot games to Rush Street Interactive-operated PlaySugarHouse.com on an exclusive basis in the New Jersey real-money online and mobile wagering market.

ITF TERMINATES BETWAY SPONSORSHIP DEAL - The International Tennis Federation (ITF) has reportedly terminated Betway’s three-year sponsorship partnership as an extension to their anti-match fixing and sports integrity policy.

GSA To Launch European division - The expansion enables the GSA to better focus on the regional needs of its members outside of North America and underscores its recognition and commitment to growing European membership.

Paddy Power Trading Update - Company prevails despite adverse sports and US election results; Trump success cost the group GBP 5 million, whilst punter successes took another GBP 40 million in Q4-2016.

Tabcorp SunBets project - The details were revealed this week in an IT News article quoting Tabcorp's chief information officer, Kim Wenn, who described the SunBets project as Tabcorp's biggest global venture yet.

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