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European Commission due to release its long-awaited Green Paper on Online Gambling
Posted 3/25/11 : European Commission due to release its long-awaited Green Paper on Online Gambling
This week Thursday will see the publication of the European Commission’s much anticipated Green Paper on Online Gambling and the start of a public consultation process that could influence profound regulatory changes across European internet gambling.
One of the key areas that will be addressed is regulatory harmonisation – a demand of growing frequency from trade associations and operators concerned at the complicated ‘balkanisation’ trend sweeping the market, where individual state each try to ring-fence their national gambling industry with individual sets of regulatory measures, creating a confusing patchwork of laws.
Opponents of the nation-by-nation approach have pointed out the dangers of commercial protectionism, reduced player liquidity and laws that conflict with European Union norms, whilst several governments have defended their individual approaches on grounds of better protecting their citizens from perceived online gambling-related ills such as crime, underage gambling and problem gambling.
Online gambling companies including Bwin Interactive Entertainment AG and Unibet Group plc will demand pan-European Union rules as regulators consider a possible overhaul of the EU’s confusing plethora of national gaming laws.
The EU’s top court in recent years has examined a series of cases brought by betting companies including Bwin, Ladbrokes plc and Betfair over whether it is legal for state monopolies to block them from operating freely across the 27-nation region.
Online gambling firms have also called on the EU to take action against what they say are unjustified national restrictions on cross-border online gambling on the principle of ‘free movement of trade and services’.
Since 2006, the Brussels-based commission has probed whether national rules in states such as Germany, France and Italy comply with EU laws. Most of these investigations are ongoing.
The EC has announced that the consultation following the publication of its Green Paper will “…determine if the differing national regulatory models for gambling can continue to coexist, and whether specific action may be needed in the EU for that purpose.”
One trade association, European Lotteries, has opined that the current stance adopted by the EC is a sign that it has decided to “enter into a real political dialogue” rather than seek “legal confrontation” through hauling EU member nations into the courts.
EU court rulings on cases in Italy and Portugal have found that national gambling monopolies are legal if they meet policy goals like reducing fraud and gambling addiction. Still, in a ruling last year the court said Germany’s state monopoly on sports betting and lotteries is unlawful.
Hopefully some sort of logical, fair and equitable regulatory order will emerge from the process now underway.
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