In its quarterly newsletter released this week, the independent player protection and standards body eCOGRA reviewed the global regulatory scene, concluding that Europe in particular was showing positive signs of change.
Chief executive Andrew Beveridge commented that with more European Union states softening their stance on competition and online gambling, high standards by operators are increasingly important.
Describing 2008 as a possible watershed in regulatory affairs, Beveridge said that pressure from leading betting companies prepared to litigate against state monopolies, together with the compliance efforts of the European Commission were beginning to create a persuasive climate for liberalisation.
"Now, more than ever before it is important that eCOGRA accredited operators adhere to the eGAPs [operational standards] that have taken so much international expert input and effort to construct, providing a set of best practice standards across the operational spectrum that will meet the scrutiny of the most discerning jurisdictions," he said.
Beveridge points to the regular Fair Gaming Advocate's quarterly dispute reports as indicating strongly that the eGAPs are effective, with the average number of disputes per accredited venue per month at very low levels not achieved elsewhere, and voices optimism at the manner in which the liberalisation of European gambling markets is unfolding.
He goes on to review positive recent developments in Italy, Spain, France, Poland, Denmark, Sweden and Greece whilst acknowledging difficulties in more obdurate states such as the Netherlands, Norway, Finland and Germany, that are currently reluctant to relinquish lucrative state gambling monopolies.
"Although the German states remain recalcitrant, bwin has triumphed in important litigation, and given the changes in train by other leading EU members and the threat of European Court of Justice appearances, there is room for reconsideration there, too," he claims.
"Taking most industry people by surprise, one German state – Lower Saxony – will soon have an online casino operation up and running in partnership with Chartwell Technology, a significant breakthrough. Spielbanken Niedersachsen GmbH (SNG), the exclusive Lower Saxony state licensed and regulated casino operator, has already signed up for an online gaming system from Chartwell."
Confirming Beveridge's view, the eCOGRA newsletter coincided with the news this week that the South African government has decided to regulate and licence online gambling rather than ban the popular pastime.
Beveridge includes the confusing position in the United States in his review, highlighting federal and state laws and protectionist legislative carve-outs for horseracing, fantasy football and state lotteries. But there are positive possibilities there, too with various legislative attempts to introduce regulation rather than prohibition, stop the UIGEA and appoint a sensible and unbiased commission of enquiry into Internet gambling technologies and possibilities.
Beveridge concludes that the global regulatory landscape is in a dynamic phase where some significant changes are likely, especially in Europe.
"The indications are sufficiently strong to warrant serious consideration by online gambling operators of their positioning in the industry, particularly with regard to superior and integrity driven operational standards and a commitment to professionalism, player protection and responsible gambling," he says.
"eCOGRA's eGAP standards have been carefully crafted and continuously reviewed to achieve exactly that, and we believe that "Safe and Fair" seal operators who comply with eCOGRA's requirements can meet most licensing conditions and inspections with confidence."
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