A paper published today by the European Commission – which launches a debate about policy challenges to the development of online gambling – is a good start but it does not put in place a clear EU framework for the development of safe and responsible online gaming, according to Malcolm Harbour MEP, Conservative chairman of the European Parliament’s consumer protection committee.
The paper sets out the two general systems for online gambling in the EU member states: licensing and state monopolies. However, the growth of online gambling has made it difficult for the various regimes to co-exist within a Single Market, leading to a number of European Court cases. In February the European Standardisation Committee (CEN) published a set of remote responsible gaming measures that it agreed voluntarily with the key stakeholders in the industry. These aim to provide a clear list of measures such as self-exclusion, age limits, self-imposed limits, protection of vulnerable gamblers, information about the possible consequences of gambling, and information about where to obtain help in case of addiction.
Mr Harbour said: ”Online gambling is a cross-border issue and it needs a clear EU framework in order to fulfil its potential. At the moment there is a patchwork of licensing regimes or state monopolies across the EU and a lack of clear legislation is leaving important decisions to be made by the courts. Online gambling is one area where some EU legislation can be justified. If we do not set out a clear framework at EU level for legitimate and regulated online gaming we are only going to see further growth of unlicensed or black-market operators. Through the CEN initiative the industry has shown that it is already working to improve standards and to provide consumer safeguards. This is very welcome and must be taken into account in any EU action. We should create a viable online gambling industry in the EU that is regulated well and regulated as consistently as possible across the Single Market.”