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Problems In Spain And France For Online Gambling

By: Joan Peppin, Monday July 27th 2009
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Spain is apparently keen on allowing foreign online casino operators access to its markets but is finding it difficult to evolve a national uniform policy for online gaming rules and licenses. This was apparent in the meetings held between the regional regulators and the Spanish Ministry of Interior. Such was the degree of disagreement that Eduardo Antoja, president of a Spanish gaming manufacturing company, told Gambling Compliance, "I don't now see regulation in Spain in the next three years."

Spain is a mirror to the larger problems being faced by the European Commission. European countries are going ahead with their individual national rules and policies on online gambling, with total disregard for a unified European playing field. In the same manner Spanish regional areas like Madrid and the Basque Country are implementing their own different regulations. This could mean that the foreign online gambling operators will have to align their products so that they meet the requirements of the different regions. Gambling experts also feel that as and when the United States legalizes online gambling it may well follow the Spanish model with fifty odd states dictating their own policies.

France appears to be adamant in charting its own course in online gambling. Its draft for the regulation of online gambling in France was criticized by the European Gambling and Betting Association (EGBA) and by the European Commission. However the protests have largely been ignored in the draft law presented by the French Budget Minister, Eric Woerth, to the Finance Committee of the French Parliament.

The most critical issue that was opposed by the online gambling industry was the maximum payout percentage ratio provision. The draft law has kept the originally proposed band of 80% to 85%. This will keep out most of the major online gambling operators because the stipulated maximum ratio is uncompetitive. Perhaps that has all along been the intent of the French government.

Another contentious issue that has been retained is the provision to make online gambling operators pay sport associations for the right to offer betting on their events. According to the French government this move is essential to "preserve the integrity of sport". The EGBA, which represents the online gambling operators, has said that there is no problem in compensating sporting organizations. The government is taxing the online gambling operators and a part of that tax revenue should be paid by the government to the sport associations. Asking the gambling operators to directly pay the sport associations in the guise of integrity of sport is uncalled for and will set a bad precedent.

The draft will have to be discussed in the government and therefore the proposed enactment in early 2010 seems unlikely. It will probably go to the middle of 2010.

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