Trying to bring clarity to the increasingly complicated European online gambling legislative scene this week, the Spanish EU Presidency has urged that a common definition of illegal gambling is vital to the coordinated and effective regulation of gambling throughout the trading bloc.
These conclusions were presented to the EU Competitiveness Council this week, underlining the need for collaborative action by member states if illegal gambling is to be successfully prevented from a cross-border perspective.
The proposal appears to suggest that the different national laws of the 27 EU member nations must be considered in order to adopt a common definition of illegal gambling and to respond effectively to situations created by illegal operators.
The Presidency sent a questionnaire to all EU member states on policies and what each country understands by the term ‘illegal gambling’. The responses will hopefully lead to the development of a common definition of illegal gambling, and notes particularly that all member states have a public authority in charge of regulation and control of the sector.
The Presidency points out that online gambling is either authorised, or is in the process of being authorised, in most of the 27 states, excluding Greece, Portugal, Germany, Romania, Poland, Cyprus, the Netherlands and Lithuania. Measures being considered against illegal operators include fines, imprisonment, blocking financial transactions or web pages, sanctions on illegal advertising and bans imposed on users of such sites.
However, all sanctions must respect European Court of Justice case law, and administrative penalties are the sanctions used most often. The presentation notes that ISP blocking appears to encounter technical difficulties in implementation.
The green paper on gambling due to be published in the European autumn by the European Commission is welcomed, says the presentation.
Sigrid Ligné, secretary general of the European Gambling and Betting Association, a trade body to which most major European online gambling groups belong, appeared pleased by the presentation.
“This report is the most balanced [yet],” she said. "It tries to strike a fair balance between member states’ right to regulate the sector and the obligation to respect [European] treaty rules”.
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