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EGBA Responds to EC Green Paper Initiative

By: Fabian Rictor, Thursday September 1st 2011
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When Michel Barnier took charge of the European Commission (EC), he decided to publish a Green Paper covering all aspects of online gambling in Europe so that a considered impetus could be given to remobilize regulation activities. In order to collect the required information he initiated a consultative process in which he asked all concerned to provide detailed inputs to a set of questions. The European Gaming and Betting Association (EGBA) is a trade body of Europe's large online gambling operators. The EGBA has been in the forefront of online gambling regulation in Europe and has submitted a 105 page document to the EC as its response.

A policy statement by the secretary general of EGBA, Sigrid Ligne, precedes the question-by-question responses. In this statement Ligne points out that Europe is the global leader in online gambling accounting for 45% of the growing market. In order to maintain this position a consolidated European response is required. The national regulations currently being followed violate the fundamental principles of a harmonized level playing field across member states as required by the EU Treaties. They also lead to costly duplication of licensing requirements. Ligne writes, "Unnecessarily high regulatory costs act as a barrier to an attractive legal offer that can channel the consumer away from the black market and to the regulated operators."

While commending the Green Paper initiative of Commissioner Barnier, Ligne criticizes the EC for failing to act in accordance with the EU Treaties. The regulatory mechanisms enacted or proposed to be enacted by member states have failed to comply with EU law, and yet the EC has not opened any infringement proceedings and no member state has ever been taken to court. The EGBA document exhorts the EC to act and act now.

In the answers to the specific questions raised by the EC, the EGBA emphasizes that issues relating to responsible gambling, the protection of minors and sports integrity need to be addressed in any future steps the EC would decide on. It also offers the view, backed by statistics, that online gambling is not growing at the cost of offline gambling. Both online and offline gambling have grown independently in regulated markets.

The EGBA document concludes that there is a pressing need to develop an EU regulatory framework for online gambling that will provide harmonized mechanisms of consumer protection, anti-money laundering, prevention of fraud, licensing procedures, advertising and sponsoring, customer identification, protection of minors, and sports integrity. The EGBA urges the creation of a European regulatory authority whose main responsibilities would be to coordinate regulatory cooperation and enforcement and gives an assurance that its members will actively engage to achieve these objectives.

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