Barnier: no culture of cooperation between regulators

Greater cooperation between governments and regulators is needed to “ensure the high level of protection from the risks of unregulated online gambling that every EU citizen deserves,” the EC’s internal markets chief has argued ahead of publishing his action plan for egaming today.

In an editorial distributed to news outlets across Europe, internal market and services commissioner Michel Barnier said the rapid growth of an industry expected to reach seven million users and €13bn in revenue in Europe by 2015 meant that 85% of the 15,000 sites accessible in Europe “are unlicensed, bringing with them the dangers of fraud, money laundering and gambling-related disorders such as addiction.”

Last year’s Green Paper consultation into the current state of play and the different regulatory approaches applied to online gambling across the EU, the conclusions of which will be unveiled tomorrow in Brussels, had found that while national governments had the same objectives of protecting consumers and preventing crime, “they cannot effectively regulate or respond to the challenges posed by online gambling individually”, said Barnier. Further, he argued, “a culture of cooperation between the gambling regulatory authorities is lacking or is too limited in scope”.

In order to  protect “children and other vulnerable groups”, the EC will push for the development of better age verification tools and online content filters, common standards for more responsible gambling advertising, and increased awareness of the potential dangers of gambling, said Barnier.

A joined-up approach between the EU, Member States and the industry was also needed to prevent fraud and money laundering through online gambling, due to its “cross-border nature”, he added, as well as similarly increased cooperation between stakeholders, operators and regulators to safeguard the integrity of sports from betting-related match fixing.

The EC is also expected to confirm tomorrow that it will be stepping up investigations into whether a number of Member States’ restrictions on online operators accessing their gambling markets comply with European law. There are 9 pending infringement procedures and around 30 new complaints against the gambling regulation of 12 different Member States since the EC parked its investigations into infringements back in 2008.

A number of leading operators have lost market-access cases against national monopolies in Europe’s highest court in recent years, among them bwin (now against Portuguese monopoly Santa Casa de Misericordia in 2009, and Betfair and Ladbrokes against Dutch monopoly De Lotto in 2010. The CJEU ruled that restrictions on operators’ freedom to trade and of establishment rights enshrined within Articles 56 and 49 of the EU Treaty could be justified by overriding reasons in the public interest, such as protecting consumers from gambling addiction and the prevention of fraud and money laundering.

Article written by Stephen Carter

Casino Choice journalist

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