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EU Parliament Adopts Online Gambling Report

By: Joe Valentino, Wednesday November 16th 2011
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On November 15, 2011, the European Union (EU) Parliament assembled to take a call on the Creutzmann report on online gambling. This was an event that was crucial to the future of online gambling in Europe and followed by online gambling operators and their representative bodies. Though the general feeling in the industry was that the Creutzmann report did not go all the way, it did propose positive action on several issues. Therefore the acceptance of this report by the EU Parliament has been appreciated by the online gambling industry and is seen as a positive shift in the EU position on a common approach towards online gambling. One of the most appreciated clauses of the report was directing the European Commission (EC) to pursue infringement cases against national regulatory regimes that are not compliant with EU law.

The basis of the actions recommended in the Creutzmann report is that online gambling is conducted across national borders and therefore national stand-alone solutions cannot be the way forward. The report asks the EU to provide a framework directive to all concerned in the regulation and operation of online gambling. It calls for formalized and mandatory cooperation between the different national regulators under the supervision of the EC. The report seeks that the following concrete steps be taken. European standards are established for operators, consumer protection, advertising and electronic identification. The national license application procedures are made more efficient so as to avoid unnecessary duplication of administrative requirements and controls that have already been verified in another Member State. Consistency in pursuing infringement procedures by the EC against Member States whose national gambling legislation is at variance with EU law.

The importance of the adoption of these measures by the EU Parliament lies in the fact that the pan European governing body has made a u-turn from the previously adopted position. Two years ago, in a previous own-initiative report, the EU Parliament adopted the status quo and recommended that the EC leave the regulation of online gambling to the individual nations. As a result the last EC action in the eight pending gambling infringement cases dates back to February 2008. After that several new complaints against national legislation have been received by the EC, but no new infringement cases have been filed. This has happened, despite the EC issuing Detailed Opinions against recent drafts of national laws on online gambling.

All eyes are now on Commissioner Michel Barnier, who is in the process of concluding the Green Paper consultation launched by him in March 2011. This vote by the EU Parliament gives Barnier a clear direction. The industry now expects him to urgently take action on the new complaints received and the infringement back log on old complaints against national regulations that violate EU law. After the vote, Barnier confirmed that the EC would take its cue from the adopted report.

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