New survey indicates a trend toward insulated national regulatory regimes

Possibly encouraged by the impact of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act in the United States, at least seven European Union nations are planning on travelling their own route on Internet gambling regulation, a new survey by Gambling Compliance shows.

Titled ‘Market Barriers: A European Online Gambling Study 2009’ the study took several months of research by a seven-strong legal research team, the portal revealed this week, claiming the work is the first major survey of Europe’s cross-border gambling market since a European Commission-backed study produced by the Swiss Institute of Comparative Law in 2006.

The team found that with no formal EU-level rules on cross-border internet gambling in prospect, a majority of European Union member states are now actively considering reforms to bring about their own national-level controls on the activity.

"While definitive legal clarity from either European officials in Brussels or from the European Court of Justice has been lacking, the new report nevertheless finds that 19 European governments are currently engaging in discussions regarding internet gambling in their jurisdictions," and announcement from Gambling Compliance informs.

“Even as other EU member states follow the leads of Italy and the UK in expressly regulating internet gambling, the vast majority of European jurisdictions will continue to restrict access to their gambling markets to those operators they license and their government-sanctioned monopolies,” the research team predicts.

"Seven European states have already made concrete plans to introduce a national licensing system for remote gambling – plans which, in most cases, are to be underpinned by blocking mechanisms to halt financial transactions and deny internet access to unlicensed gambling websites."

“There is no question that ISP and payments blocking policies have gathered momentum in Europe since the introduction of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act in the United States in October 2006,” notes Harry Ashton, GamblingCompliance’s head of legal and regulatory research.

“But, as experiences in US have shown, there are significant doubts as to how effective these blocking mechanisms will actually prove to be. In addition, the policies raise new legal questions for payments and internet service providers – including several related to European law,” Ashton added.

New business opportunities are emerging as the European scenario evolves, with an increasing desire among media groups, terrestrial gaming operators and state-sanctioned lotteries to embrace online gambling, Ashton added. “On the one hand, this represents new competition for internet gaming operators. However, it also provides an opportunity for them to offer their expertise to new market entrants either through partnerships and white label deals, or as software or payments solutions providers.”

The GamblingCompliance report provides a detailed analysis of relevant rules and restrictions applied to internet gambling for each of the 27 EU member states and Norway. It also provides a breakdown of applicable ECJ case law and recent infringement actions taken by the European Commission and other European bodies.

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