New European Commission Chief says "Business as usual"

European gambling companies welcome new commissioner's first comments

Fears that the new head of the European Commission, Michel Barnier (see previous InfoPowa reports), may take a lighter approach to maintaining the free passage of goods and services between member nations were assuaged this week when the new Internal Market Commissioner addressed the European Parliament.

The European Gaming and Betting Association, a trade body that represents the views of most of Europe's leading online gambling companies, welcomed Barnier's commitment to address the situation of gaming and betting at EU level.

Speaking to members of the European Parliament, Barnier confirmed that the analysis of the Commission Legal Serviceregarding the most recent European Court of Justice ruling (Santa Casa, C-42/09) does not change fundamentally the Commission’s approach towards infringement procedures.

The Commissioner said that the Santa Casa ruling of 8 September 2009 was based on considerations specific to Portugal and to its national monopoly operator. The Commission will therefore continue to examine the compliance of national legislation with EU law on a case-by-case basis.

Sigrid Ligné, Secretary General of the EGBA, said: “With several Member States currently reforming their gaming and betting legislation, this is an important confirmation that the Commission will not stand by while Member States introduce restrictions that go against fundamental principles of the EU.

“We believe that the respect of Internal Market rules in our sector will promote high standards and improve the protection of players throughout the EU”.

EGBA has also expressed its strong support for the Commissioner’s plan to engage in a broad consultation with stakeholders and to work on a political document, based on reliable figures and a clear diagnosis of the situation in Europe.

The Commissioner raised the prospect of a Green Paper on gambling, a move which EGBA believes could offer a real opportunity to test the interest and support of the European Parliament and Member States for future EU harmonisation in the sector.

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