Monday June 25, 2012 : TRADE BODY OUTLINES ITS NEEDS FROM EUROPEAN COMMISSION
E.G.B.A. gets in early with comments for June 27 European Parliament discussion
With yet another key discussion on European online gambling regulation by the European Parliament scheduled for June 27, industry trade body the European Gaming and Betting Association issued its wish list on remote gambling Monday.
With the European Commission's Communication and Action Plan in mind, EGBA secretary general Sigrid Ligné said that European demand for online gambling services continues to grow, but noted that if there is no legal framework to permit popular products to come to market, consumers can be expected to turn to unlicensed and unregulated operators, with all the associated risks.
"Greater coordination between member states is therefore vital to ensure effective regulation and protection for consumers,” she said.
Ligné applauded EC chief Michael Barnier for helping to refuel the EU policy debate on online gambling through his Green Paper consultation and the launch of expert workshops to establish the facts in relation to key but emotive issues such as the prevalence of problem gambling. She also saluted the Creutzmann report, which the European Parliament adopted in November last year which:
* Acknowledges for the first time that national stand-alone solutions are not suitable for tackling the cross-border dimension of the sector, not least consumer protection, and calls for the adoption of an EU framework for online gambling;
* Urges the European Commission as ‘guardian of the treaties’ to combat protectionist regimes and swiftly pursue infringement proceedings, some of which have been pending since 2008.
Ligné observed that legal uncertainties were a threat to success in the economic sector, noting that some EU nations "…are clearly at odds with the treaty-based “red lines” which seek to combat protectionist bias, and the situation is only getting worse. Some have even gone as far as to introduce criminal sanctions against EU operators and consumers on the back of legalization which manifestly violates EU law – yet the Commission does nothing.
"Without Commission action now, certain member states will continue to consider that they have “carte blanche” to do as they please,” Ligné opined.
EGBA would like to see more administrative cooperation and trust between EU member states when it comes to online gambling regulation, obviating mwhat she called "…a proliferation of rules, costly duplication of controls and requirements, but also loopholes and inconsistencies in the way European consumers are protected."
The Association recommends that the EU establish a legal obligation, and an agreed channel, for member states to give each other mutual assistance.
"The emergence by stealth of 27 “mini-markets” for online gambling is harming consumers by restricting choice, fostering a burgeoning ‘black market’ and failing to provide a commercially viable framework for this major segment of the digital economy. This simply cannot be the way forward," Ligné said.
What EGBA would really like to see is an overarching EU-wide legalization for online gambling, as there is for virtually all other tradable services. Online gambling already falls, or will fall, under the scope of a number of EU rules, such as on data protection, e-signatures and e-ID, public concessions and on take-down and notice of illegal content.
But there is currently no EU-level sectorial directive for gambling. EU legalization would and should realise the dual objective of providing consumers with a consistently high level of protection throughout the EU, and ensuring fair market access for licensed operators.
Ligné said: “Our end goal is of course a single licence or passport for online gambling, as exists in other sectors. But a practical start should be made now by the Commission proposing a harmonisation of targeted licensing requirements, common technical standards and reporting tools, and common consumer protection standards based on the workshop agreement published in 2011 by the European standardisation body CEN.
"These are not pie-in-the-sky expectations. They are the bare-bones solution to get us nearer to an EU system which keeps consumers safe wherever they are in the EU, helps curb the activity of illicit operators, provides a level playing field for EU-based, EU-regulated and EU-taxed operators, and produces much needed revenue for EU exchequers at a crucial time for the European economy”.