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European Commission Unveils Online Gambling Action Plan

By: Adam Baker, Wednesday October 24th 2012
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On October 23 2012 the Internal Market and Services Commissioner Michel Barnier revealed by the much awaited action plan for online gambling at a press conference in Brussels. The salient points of the action plan were made public through a press release. The press release began with introductory information on online gambling in Europe before going on to the details of the action plan.

Releasing the action plan Commissioner Barnier said that not only consumers of online gambling, but more broadly all citizens must be adequately protected. Also money laundering and fraud must be prevented, sport must be safeguarded against betting-related match-fixing and national rules must comply with EU law. There must also be greater cooperation between Member States. “These are the objectives of the action plan we have adopted today,” he said. The action plan covers a series of initiatives over the next two years.

The action plan specifically excluded EU-wide legislation on online gambling. Instead it proposed a comprehensive set of actions and common principles on protection. This means that Member States are in principle free to frame their regulatory network as they deem fit. However, the national laws enacted must be in compliance with the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU. The problem here is the lack of legal clarity on which countries are violating this treaty with their existing or proposed laws on online gambling. Therefore the action plan will speed up probes being conducted by the European Courts into these issues.

As was evident from Barnier’s letter released yesterday morning the action plan will encourage the development of better age-verification tools and online content filters and push for more responsible advertising and increased parental awareness. On the field of problem gambling the action plan will seek effective methods of treatment and prevention. To combat betting related match fixing the action plan will promote faster information exchange, whistle-blowing mechanisms, and overall cooperation between all stakeholders.

The concrete steps proposed in the action plan are of greater interest to the online gambling industry. The EC will establish an expert group to facilitate exchanges of experience on regulation between Member States. The first expert group meeting with the Member States has been scheduled for December 2012. In 2013, the EC will organize a broader based stakeholder conference. Evaluation of the implementation of the action plan has been built in.

The most important part of the action plan for European online gambling operators concerns the complaints lodged by them against the Member States. Starting today, the EC will ask such Member States to provide a full and exact update about the latest developments on national legislation. The EC hopes that the Member States will cooperate in the quest for a timely and satisfactory resolution regarding the compatibility of national measures with existing EU law.

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