EQUITABLE EUROPEAN REGULATION REMAINS A PROBLEM
03rd May, 2011 at 03:37:39
As the European Commission's Green Paper consultation continues, some interesting stats emerge
The run-up to the publication of the European Commission's Green Paper consultation on the regulation of online gambling (see previous reports) produced some interesting statistics.
The Commission conducted research that suggested that, out of 14,823 active gambling sites
in Europe, more than 85% were operating in countries where they did not hold a national licence, highlighting the difficulties of controlling a largely borderless technology and the potential problems it can deliver.
For years the argument has raged that online gambling constitutes a service and should therefore not be subjected to national blocking laws as long as the operator is licensed in a fellow Member State.
Substantial sums of money have been spent in protracted legal wrangles that have reached as high as the European Court of Justice as internet gambling firms tried to remove national barriers placed in their way by state gambling monopolies.
New legal precedents have been set, and Commission interventions have seen some softening of national attitudes as various EC countries develop more acceptable but still protectionist individual regulatory regimes, in many cases creating a more liberal marketplace than was previously the case, but still leaving potential for improvement.
The Commission's research indicated that the cross-border market for gambling services remains divided in opinions and intentions, with frequent national barriers imposed in an overall European marketplace that boasted gambling capital (stake minus paid-out winnings) totalling Euro 8.3 billion in 2008.
Industry estimates suggest this will rise further to Euro 12.5 billion by next year, presenting lucrative revenue possibilities which national governments want to keep to themselves if they can.
This potentially confusing scenario of myriad countries independently developing domestic regulatory regimes has resulted in calls for the harmonisation of online gambling regulations in EU nations.
There will inevitably be self-interested objections to that as the EC consultation develops, with the Commission itself assuring that it will maintain "an open mind," and some observers opining that it seeks cooperation rather than confrontation and enforced compliance.
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