In a follow up to an almost interminable period of debate and consultation over the last three years, the EU has finally published its online gaming action plan. The plan marks a significant retreat from earlier ambitions for an EU-wide regulatory framework, calling for no new legislation.
“The Commission is not proposing EU-wide legislation on online gambling. It is proposing a comprehensive set of actions and common principles on protection,” the press release reads.
These set of actions boil down to three recommendations: Further protection of consumers, responsible gambling advertising and the prevention and fight against betting-related match-fixing.
There will also be the appointment of an “expert group” to promote cross-border co-operation and “ensure respect for the rules.” Letters have been sent to member states seen to be infringing to request the latest update to their national gambling regulations.
The report accepts that member states are in principle free to set their own online gaming objectives, and “may indeed restrict or limit the supply of all or certain types of online gambling services on the basis of public interest.”
However, it goes on to add that “prevailing regulatory, societal and technical issues in the EU cannot be tackled adequately” by countries individually, and that national laws “must comply with the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU” (TFEU).
Any member states that do restrict or limit the cross-border supply of online gambling must do so only for reasons of consumer protection, and states must demonstrate that these objectives are “pursued in a suitable, consistent and systematic manner.”
The member states considered at an advanced stage of infringement to existing laws are Finland, Greece, Hungary, the Netherlands and Sweden. Germany has been sent a “letter of notice” about its federal gambling treaty.
The concluding recommendations have much less bite than some may have expected. The guidelines drawn up may well be ineffective without new legislation. An evaluation of “implementation and application” of all the measures will be performed in two years, and “additional measures” may be taken if implementations of the guidelines are found to be inadequate.