The European Gaming and Betting Association (EGBA) has taken an official line on the European Commission’s detailed opinion against the Belgian proposal for online gaming and betting legalization, taking particular exception to provisions which are aimed at restricting the Belgian online gaming and betting market to operators solely established in that country.
Maarten Haijer, EGBA Director for Regulatory Affairs said: “The requirement for operators to be established in Belgium is one of the clearest violations of EC Treaty provisions. It wrongly denies that many online gaming
operators are effectively regulated, licensed and controlled elsewhere in the EU. As several jurisdictions in the EU already prove, it is possible to guarantee a high level of consumer protection and have a well regulated and competitive online gaming and betting market at the same time. ”
The Belgian draft law was notified to the European Commission and the other member states on 27 March 2009. A detailed legal analysis carried out on behalf of EGBA highlighted a number of questionable issues under EC law, specifically:
* the requirement for operators to be established in Belgium; * the unjustified limitation of the number of available licenses; * the unjustified restrictions on the freedom to provide services, and; * criminal sanctions on consumers wishing to play with EU licensed operators.
This is the second detailed opinion from the European Commission that goes against recent draft legalization for online gaming and betting in a short period.
On 8th June France received a detailed opinion against its proposed legalization because it also violates several Treaty provisions (see previous InfoPowa report). Both proposals seem to have in common the view that online gaming and betting should be an industry restricted within individual national boundaries.
Both Belgium and France also propose to introduce ISP blocking to prevent consumers playing with EU licensed and regulated operators. France has already received a detailed opinion against that proposal as well.
“ISP blockings cannot impose territorial boundaries on the Internet. Experience shows that such restrictions are difficult to implement, easy to circumvent, inefficient and foster the growth of an underground market” Haijer asserted.
Today’s detailed opinion extends the standstill period until 30 July 2009, during which time Belgium cannot adopt its draft legalization, and is required to reply to the Commission’s views before adopting the legalization. If Belgium decides to adopt the current text without taking into account the Commission’s objections, the Commission can immediately launch infringement proceedings.
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