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Online gambling trade body the European Gaming and Betting Association has submitted a response to the European Commission's Green Paper Consultative Initiative.
The response supports the concept of a more in sync regulatory system for the 27 countries that are members of the European Union and believes that it is in the E.U.'s best interests to move beyond what it currently sees as the "present unsustainable legal uncertainty and fragmentation."
EGBA Secretary General Sigrid Ligne wrote, "With 45% of the global online gambling market Europe has a leadership position in a growing segment of the burgeoning online economy. Without a proper European policy response, this leadership will almost certainly be threatened."
The response points out that online gamblers need to be protected by fair and uniform regulations within the E.U., but states concern that member states are introducing their own regulatory legislation, which falls contrary to principals that were spelled out in E.U. treaties and may have an adverse effect on the online gambling industry.
The EGBA sees the costs of having to apply for licensing in multiple countries as cost prohibitive to online casino operators and makes a case for the role of uniform regulations to remove this burden from companies. "Unnecessarily high regulatory costs act as a barrier to an attractive legal offer that can channel the consumer away from the black market and to the regulated operators," the EGBA response writes, “The proper application of basic EU Treaty rules would go a long way to address this issue."
Secretary Linge also took aim at the European Commission's past actions, noting that by failing in its role to protect E.U. treaties, it has possibly made regulatory issues worse.
"Despite issuing numerous formal warnings on recent draft legislation for failing to comply with EU law, the Commission has not opened any infringement proceedings since early 2008. Indeed, even existing gambling infringement procedures have been on hold since that date and no Member State has ever been taken to Court for failing to comply with EU law regarding its gambling legislation.
"The Commission must act now and pursue infringement cases in a systematic way to correct existing legislative flaws and to prevent new national rule-making from breaching EU law. If the Commission continues to turn a blind eye to breaches of EU law, it is hard to see how any agreement will be reached on meaningful next steps after this consultation."
The EGBA response also shares that it believes the current growth of the online market does not impede the growth of the offline market, and that the two can co-exist without issue. "Whilst the online market grows, the traditional offline market continues to grow in real terms as well, as do the revenues of most of the traditional land-based operators. The regulation of the online market has positive spill-over effects on the European economy and there is no cannibalisation of existing revenues and funding streams," Linge wrote.
The EGBA concluded that there is a sufficient basis and need to develop a uniform E.U. regulatory framework for online gambling. Goals for this framework should be: targeted harmonisation of consumer protection; anti-money laundering; prevention of fraud and other crime; assessment of personal integrity; mutual recognition of licensing procedures; IT infrastructure; advertising and sponsoring; customer identification; protection of minors; and sports integrity.