Saturday October 8, 2011 : Maintain your own rules, but be prepared to cooperate, EC tells member nations
 
European member states should be free to maintain their own rules on online gambling, but should also step up EU-wide cooperation to counter the black market and protect children and vulnerable consumers, say Internal Market Committee MEPs in a resolution adopted Thursday and communicated by the EU Parliament communications division.
 
A statement from the Committee: Internal Market and Consumer Protection, says around 10 percent of all gambling in Europe, with a market volume in excess of Euro 10 billion, is done on the internet, via mobile phones or interactive TV platforms.
 
The non-legislative resolution by Jürgen Creutzmann passed Thursday with 30 votes in favour, 1 against and 3 abstentions, and sets out Parliament's initial position on the consultative Commission Green Paper of March 2011.
 
The resolution does not make for happy reading from an industry point of view, rejecting as it does the concept of an EU law regulating online gambling throughout the Union, and instead supporting the subsidiarity principle. This effectively proposes that Member States are free to control their own internet gambling activities, and this could lead to the continuance of state monopolies or bans.
 
That said, the Committee notes that given the cross-border nature of online gambling, there is clearly value in an EU-wide coordinated approach in some areas, notably the fight against illegal gambling and preventing addiction.
 
The resolution calls for stronger cooperation among regulatory bodies, with the Commission acting as coordinator to develop common standards for taking joint action against unlicensed gambling providers and possibly blacklisting offenders.
 
The Internal Market Information System (IMI), an electronic network linking public authorities within the EU, could serve as a basis for a more effective cooperation, the resolution suggests.
 
Apparently following the example of the US Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act, the resolution also calls on the European Commission to consider the possibility of a "legally binding instrument" obliging banks, credit card issuers and other payment system participants in the EU to block transactions between their clients and blacklisted gambling providers.
 
Despite statistical evidence to the contrary, the resolution claims that online gambling "may involve a greater risk of addiction" inter alia due to "increased ease of access and the absence of social control".
 
Consequently, the EU needs to adopt common standards for consumer protection, the resolution says, especially regarding under age and problem gamblers. This requires that controls such as age verification and restrictions for electronic payment need to be in place before any gaming activity begins.
 
The Committee’s report on internet gambling is scheduled for a plenary vote in Strasbourg in November 2011.