Tuesday, October 2, 2012 : ONLINE GAMBLING TRADE BODY CALLS FOR EU-WIDE HARMONISED REGULATION
 
Big expectations for European Commission's Communication and Action Plan on online gambling
 
The representative trade body for most of Europe's major online gambling companies, the European Gaming and Betting Association (EGBA) has called for hard action from the European Commission to curb market fragmentation and protect consumers – and says that its EU operators have lodged formal complaint with the Commission against the new German gambling régime.
 
With the Commission's Communication and Action Plan on online gambling, currently scheduled for delivery mid to late October, expectations in the industry are running high that a more cohesive and player-protective system will emerge.
 
Sigrid Ligné, Secretary General of EGBA said Tuesday: “We deplore the situation today where we see 27 ‘mini-markets’ for gambling in Europe. We are calling for the introduction of European rules to ensure proper protection for consumers and maintain a crime-free environment throughout the EU, while affording open, fair and transparent licensing conditions for EU-regulated operators.”
 
The complaint against the new German gambling régime is based on on grounds of its incompatibility with the EU treaty.
 
Ligné said: "We urge the European Commission to handle our complaint urgently as Germany is in the process of allocating licenses on the basis of a highly contentious tendering procedure which appears, on the basis of an accumulation of evidence, not to be designed to pursue the declared purpose of conducting an open, fair and transparent Europe-wide call for bids."
 
In his June 2012 speech to the European Parliament the head of the Commission, Michele Barnier, made a clear commitment that the Commission will ensure that national regimes are in conformity with the EU Treaty.
 
"Unfortunately, the situation is worsening in a number of jurisdictions," Ligné claims. "Several Member States have decided to move forward with legalization that is – at best – highly questionable under EU law. Some have even gone a step further. If the Commission fails to provide a timetable for reactivating these dormant procedures, and to take rapid action against new offenders, certain Member States will continue to consider that they have “carte blanche” to do as they please."
 
She added that there are currently 9 infringement procedures on hold, and many more new complaints have been lodged with the Commission.
 
EGBA believes that an overarching EU legalization for online gambling is essential, as there is for virtually all other online services. The objective is to have EU-wide, sector specific legalization that regulates both market access and consumer protection issues. This would necessitate:
 
* Common consumer protection standards based on the existing workshop agreement published in 2011 by the CEN (European Committee for Standardisation);
 
* Common technical standards and reporting tools
 
* Common licensing requirements
 
Ligné concludes: “Can the Commission afford to sit back and ignore an online industry which is set to grow from Euro 8.5 billion in 2010 to Euro 13 billion in 2015?”