The European Commission’s recent Communication on Online Gambling asserted that it would be taking steps to ensure that Member States complied fully with EU law. However, irreparable and unjustifiable damage will be done to the European private sector online gambling industry unless the Commission acts quickly and decisively to prevent the most blatant breaches of EU law.
The Commission’s Communication was published on 23rd October and followed a lengthy Green Paper process that enabled it to take a view on all of the key issues associated with online gambling within the EU.
It had previously decided not to pursue any online gambling infringement proceedings against Member States until it had finished its work in that area. To its credit the Commission stated in the Communication that it was committed to ensuring that all EU national regulatory frameworks are fully compliant with EU law.
They have since written on this issue to numerous Member States, but many of them have arguably been operating illegally for several years already and urgent action needs to be taken against the worst offenders before irreparable damage is done to those online gambling operators who are established and licensed in the EU.
Clive Hawkswood, Chief Executive of the RGA, said:
‘Although we welcome the Commission’s commitment to take action, it will be meaningless unless they move swiftly and firmly to protect both the principles of the Internal Market and, indeed, EU law itself. By its own admission the Commission has concerns about the regimes in many countries, but the regulations being imposed in places like Belgium, Greece and Germany must surely be an affront to anyone at the Commission who truly believes in a fair, safe and competitive market within the EU.
Only yesterday we saw the Co-CEOs of bwin.party, a company listed on the London Stock Exchange and holding multiple licences in Europe, being challenged and intimidated by the Belgian Gambling Commission whilst in Brussels to lobby for fair treatment within the EU. The irony of that cannot be lost on anyone.
It is just one of many examples of the sort of injustice that is being faced by our industry because the Commission has yet to enforce properly the rules that it is there primarily to protect. We do not underestimate the political hurdles that they face, but that should not distract them from their duty as guardian of Treaty. If they don’t take urgent and effective action soon, then it will be difficult not to view their current activity as merely a paper shuffling exercise.’