European Union Addresses Internet Gambling

The European Gaming and Betting Association and The Parliament Magazine organized this week’s debate, by gathering some of Europe’s most influential politicians and industry experts, some of them have different opinions when it comes to internet gambling regulation across Europe.

John Penrose, the UK tourism and heritage minister also participated in the debate. Penrose, who is responsible for the British gambling portfolio, said that the EU should consider the individual rights of each member state at national level to regulate internet gambling, especially when it comes to the various cultural norms and traditions in Europe. He added, “In the UK we have light touch regulation and an open market but member states such as Poland and Portugal have more conservative views on gambling and their legislation is more restrictive.

“These differences have deep roots and spring from fundamentally different religious traditions and managing the always-fuzzy dividing line between things which are harmless and enjoyable for the majority of the population but potentially seriously harmful for a small minority.”

Penrose expressed his concerns about the importance of protecting punters in any regulation of internet gambling, adding that, even though gambling is a litigious and sensitive political issue, overseen by 27 different national systems and cultures in the EU.

He said that governments must also beware of “unnecessary bureaucracy, duplication and a ‘tick box’ approach to regulation”.

As part of the European Parliament’s “Responsible Gaming Day” activities the event was organized, and internet gambling enjoys top priority at the moment. A report on internet gambling, drafted by German deputy Jurgen Creutzmann, will be discussed by parliament’s discussion in mid-November.

Worth mentioning is that the report already received support from the EC internal market committee and is seen as the parliament’s yardstick in response to a European Commission consultative Green Paper.

Creutzmann, pointed out in order to foster a EU-wide harmonization of current rules it’s important that member states should be on the same page. However, he also stated that internet gambling is still regulated wholly at national or even regional level all over the EU.

“The policy options chosen by member states could not be more different, ranging from outright prohibitions of any form of online gambling to perfectly liberalized markets in other member states. However, the internet does not have any physical borders. Therefore, the market is distorted at the moment and the regulation does not work,” stressed Creutzmann, who is the parliament’s rapporteur, his responsibility is to reconcile various international opinions on regulation.

To conclude, he added: “On the one hand, you have the defenders of the free market who would like to liberalize internet gambling in its entirety. On the other hand, you have those who defend state monopolies who feel that this is the only way to protect consumers and combat organized crime.

“Lobbies on both sides have been very active in trying to influence MEPs but national interests have also been very influential which explains the large number of amendments that were tabled to my draft report.

“As rapporteur, it is my job to facilitate a sensible compromise which is ambitious but can still be supported by a broad majority of parliament.”



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