The European Gaming and Betting Association (EGBA) has come out in opposition to key provisions contained in a French draft law designed to regulate online gambling. The French Minister for Budget Eric Woerth is scheduled to present the draft law to the finance committee of the French Parliament this week.
EGBA has already expressed strong reservations over key provisions of the draft law and its compatibility with EC Law, including limiting the pay back ratio.
The Association issued a statement saying that Minister Woerth is likely to defend the idea of a sports betting right to “preserve the integrity of sports”.
Maarten Haijer, Director for Regulatory Affairs at EGBA said: “The EGBA is opposed to what would be a precedent in Europe: there is no link between a sports betting right and the integrity of sport.”
The Association stresses that integrity is of the utmost importance to both sports and betting operators. Sports betting operators only stand to lose customers and reputation from match fixing, and that is why all online bets of EGBA members are monitored real time by the European Sports Security Association (ESSA), and any suspicious betting patterns are immediately forwarded to a wide range of sports federations such as the IOC, ATP, UEFA and FIFA.
It is claimed that the envisaged commercial contract between the sport federations and the operators would – next to the obvious financial gain – allow the federations to control the bets. Haijer points out though: “This makes the sports federations the promoter, the regulator and the judge of their own sport. But isn’t it crucial to separate rather than combine these three functions to avoid any conflict of interest?
“Restricting the bets that can be taken within a regulatory framework will have a perverse effect. It will simply ensure that those set on corrupting sport will focus on those bets that are not permitted; with no regulatory oversight or early warning system as provided by the betting industry, they will have a free hand,” Haijer opined.
As betting and sports are cross-border activities, so is the issue of integrity, the EGBA claims.
“A national approach to an international challenge cannot be an effective means to deal with integrity”, Haijer said.
"At EU level, the European Court of Justice and the European Commission have already made clear that sports federations are not the proprietors of rights such as fixture lists and data. Logically, as this is information in the public domain, freely used by journalists and travel agencies alike.
"If the intention is to ensure increased revenues for sport federations, the Minister should allocate more tax revenues to fund all sports rather than introducing a right that could only benefit the commercially most attractive sports federations.
"However, if the real purpose is to ensure the integrity of sports, then effective measures are needed. Corruption needs to be tackled from all angles, including the education of athletes. A WADA (World Anti Doping Agency) style agency to fight corruption in sports would be a very effective and credible initiative."
Haijer concluded: “The EGBA would welcome the Ministers´ commitment to the creation of a WADA-style agency, and we would be eager to bring in our knowledge and experience to make it effective”.
The EGBA hopes that the French Government will take into account all concerns expressed by the industry, the European Commission and other Member States in amending its proposals.
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