Judging by exchanges in the British Parliament's House of Lords this week, the French protectionist attitude toward its gambling interests irks more than a few Brit peers.
The official Opposition Conservative Party's Lord James of Blackheath fired the first salvo when he denounced French state monopolistic gambling policy, claiming that punishments meted out to non-French companies seeking to access the French gambling market in terms of the European Union Treaty, and those punishing French gamblers were disproportionately severe.
Lord James said the penalty for downloading child pornography and placing a small bet with a British bookie were the same – a year’s jail or a Euro 75 000 fine. He asked whether the British [Labour] government was considering a similar law on bookmakers operating from France into the UK to “restore a level playing field.”
Lord Davies of Oldham, answering for the government, pointed out that the playing field could be levelled in any case by European Commission demands that the French comply with European Union requirements for the free movement of goods and services between member nations.
Lod Davies said that the French policy was directed not at defending the consumer, but at protecting the French state monopoly on gambling.
“The European Commission has made it clear that the French law is not acceptable within the framework of the European Community, and as a consequence we have no intention of following that atrocious example,” Lord Davies asserted.
Entering the debate, which occurred during Question Time, other peers expressed concern that underage people may be able to use online gambling websites.
Liberal Democrat Lord Clement-Jones made the arguable statement that operators in the EU and in Gibraltar are allowed to have lower standards of age verification than those in the UK.
Describing this as "a fundamental flaw of the Gambling Act" Lord Davies replied that, although there were differing standards, the UK’s regulations had only been in place for six months and there had been “very few” complaints to the Gambling Commission about underage gambling.
He added: “Although we are keeping a very close eye on it we see no reason why we need to change our regulatory framework which seems to be working satisfactorily.”
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