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New European Action Plan for Online Gambling

02/11/2012
In October 2012, the European Commission published its long-awaited Communication "Towards a comprehensive European framework for online gambling", together with a Staff Working Document. The In October 2012, the European Commission published its long-awaited Communication "Towards a comprehensive European framework for online gambling", together with a Staff Working Document. The Communication is the Commission's response to its consultation from March to July 2011, initiated by its Green Paper "On on-line gambling in the Internal Market", the primary objective of which was to collect information from all interested stakeholders on the existing treatment of the EU online gambling market and the key policy issues that the growth of this market gives rise to. The Staff Working Document provides more detailed information on the Commission's proposals and an analysis of the consultation responses to the Green Paper.

Of particular note, at this point in time, the Commission has deemed it inappropriate to propose EU-wide legislation. Rather, the Commission has proposed a number of initiatives which cover five priority areas. These are:

  • Enforcing compliance of national regulatory frameworks with EU law.

  • Enhancing supervision, administrative cooperation among member states and efficient enforcement.

  • Protecting consumers and citizens, minors and vulnerable persons.

  • Preventing fraud and money laundering.

  • Safeguarding the integrity of sports and preventing match-fixing.


The above initiatives will be introduced throughout the next two years, following which the Commission intends to fully evaluate how the initiatives have progressed. In conjunction with these initiatives, the Commission intends to set up an expert group on gambling before the end of 2012 and to convene a stakeholder conference in 2013. Importantly, if the initiatives are found to be less than adequate, the Commission has indicated it will consider whether the introduction of additional legislative measures at EU level are appropriate.

Online gambling is a fast growing business within the EU. With revenues rising by about 15% annually in recent years, it is estimated that annual revenues by 2015 will be in the region of €13 billion. This figure is about 40% higher than in 2011. It is no surprise, therefore, that the treatment of this service activity is on the Commission's radar. Bucking the downturn, which has adversely affected much of the EU, the fast pace of online technologies would appear to be the key to the industry's success, allowing gambling services to be provided via the Internet, mobile phones and even digital TV.

As I reported in TechBytes, in December last year, the regulation of online gambling is also very much on the UK government's agenda. Whilst Member States are free in principle to set their own policies and regulations regarding games of chance, they must of course comply with EU law and internal market principles and rules. The UK government will no doubt be putting the recent Communication under the microscope, to ensure that its own legislative proposals are in-keeping with the Commission's very current strategy which, depending on how things progress over the next couple of years, could yet result in legislative measures being introduced at EU level.

Relevant links:-

European Commission Communication on a European framework for online gambling COM(2012) 596, 23 October 2012



Staff Working Document: Online gambling in the Internal Market, 23 October 2012

http://www.ffw.com/publications/all/articles/igaming-reform-plans.aspx

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