The European Parliament has adopted the report on online gambling drawn up by Ashley Fox MEP and called on the EU to take greater action to ensure European trade principles are respected and cross-border cooperation between regulators is increased.
The Parliament’s decision was welcomed by the trade bodies the Remote Gambling Association and the European Gaming and Betting Association, although the RGA was critical of some of the wording used to describe online betting operators.
The RGA said it welcomed certain positive aspects of the report such as continued infringement proceedings against certain Member States, promoting cooperation between national gambling regulators, the benefits of more transparent licensing procedures and the need to avoid unnecessary administrative burdens.
However, the RGA was disappointed “that in places it contains unsubstantiated views about the online gambling sector and these appear to have been used to justify the call for unwarranted restrictions on the freedoms normally associated with the Internal Market”.
It added, “Unfortunately, the resolution appears to have been unduly influenced by those members of the Internal Market and Consumer Protection (IMCO) Committee who are opposed to the opening of markets to licensed private sector online gambling companies. In doing so they have repeated flawed consumer protection arguments to justify the retention of barriers to market entry.”
EGBA for its part was more conciliatory but called on European Commissioner for internal market and services Michel Barnier to deliver on his promises to take action on non compliant EU member states. Right at the time when most member states are re-regulating their markets, the risk of no action would not only undermine the work of the European Commission, but create further legal uncertainty for European licensed operators”.
Maarten Haijer, Secretary general of EGBA, said, “Today’s vote, which is the 3rd report on gambling in the mandate of this European Parliament, highlights once more the growing interest of the EU to take action and responsibility in this area. While the report does not call for harmonisation of the sector yet, it supports new EU action in many areas such as customer e-verification and improved cross border cooperation. These initiatives are crucial to streamline identification procedures, simplify licensing procedures and remove unnecessary administrative burden for cross border operators.
“Last but not least, the vote confirms, in line with previous parliamentary reports, the political support from the European Parliament for the Commission to finally launch infringement procedures against those Member States that continue to breach EU law. This is the only way to ensure an attractive and competitive regulated offer, and prevent consumers from turning to more competitive but unregulated websites.”