Monday July 30,2012 : HARMONY IN EUROPEAN BETTING LAWS STILL SOME WAY OFF
Former ECJ Advocate General says it may take significant time – if at all – for common EU laws on internet gambling to be agreed.
Prof. Siegbert Alber, chairman of the EU government relations firm Alber & Geiger, wrote an opinion piece in Public Affairs News this week, exploring the possibilities of harmonised European Union laws on internet gambling.
Prof. Alber knows whereof he speaks; as a former Advocate General of the European Court of Justice he was deeply involved in the key Gambelli case which set legal precedent on the supremacy of EU law under certain circumstances.
Harmonising online gambling laws across the 27-nation European Union is the holy grail for many legislators and operators because it has the potential to remove fragmented, diverse and often confusing laws set at national levels and influenced by parochial priorities that are not always completely altruistic and player protective.
Prof. Alber points out that at present there are no European regulations or directives that apply directly and exclusively to gambling. Instead, litigation has relied on compliance with EU principles of free trade on goods and services between member nations.
The EU's enforcement arm, the European Commission has previously said that it sees no possibility for a legislative initiative but will call increasingly upon the ECJ, Prof. Alber explains. "As a result, the Commission has in recent years launched more than ten infringement proceedings against member states."
But, the professor points out, all these proceedings ended pre-trial. So far, the ECJ has only decided in preliminary ruling procedures launched by national courts.
The situation is changing, Prof. Alber opines, saying that a cross-border market has emerged, which includes a significant proportion of black-market gambling.
"About 85 percent of the gambling websites in the EU do not have administrative permission…..and there is a great deal of legally unclear ‘grey market’ activity," he claims.
In a renewed effort to come to grips with the problem, the European Commission's Green Paper asks 51 questions on internet gambling, designed to bring together opinions andwhether there is a need for further legislative actions. The deadline for responses falls due this week – on July 31st.
Prof. Alber notes that an EU green paper is usually followed by a white paper outlining detailed conclusions for further consultation in depth…and that is followed by a legislative drafting process if this is appropriate.
"Therefore, it will surely take a significant time until legislative regulation of online gambling at an EU-level will come into force – if it ever will," he concludes. "It would be interesting to place a bet on it."