EC Head says "Face online Gambling Head on"

It is time to recognise that online gambling is now a European reality, and will remain so,” says Barnier

Addressing a conference arranged by the European Union Presidency this week, European Commission chief Michele Barnier suggested that it was time that public authorities faced head on and addressed pertinent questions regarding online gambling.

According to a report in the publication European Politics, the internet gambling market in the region is worth over Euro 6 billion a year, or 7.5 percent of the total European gambling market.

The conference considered a wide range of issues surrounding online gambling in order for EU nations to come to grips with the popular pastime in a regulatory sense.

"It is time to recognise that online gambling is now a European reality, and will remain so,” Barnier said, reminding delegates that, of the 15,000 gambling websites accessible in the EU, more than 85 percent were not licenced in 2006. He added that the advent of the internet had gone "hand in hand with the development of a huge illegal market, as well as a 'grey' market that had resulted from operators holding a licence in one member state but offering their services in other EU countries."

Barnier supported recent ECJ case law and asserted that online games should be subject to service regulations, and that an online operator who was authorised in a particular member state should be able to offer the same services in another, unless the member state in question restricted this right “for pressing reasons of public interest”.

Based on this, a member state could opt to maintain a coherent public monopoly, but could not on the one hand warn players of the dangers of addiction while at the same time providing advertising incentives to gamble, he said, reprising recent court findings.

The Commissioner advised that the European Commission's much-anticipated green paper on internet gambling would be released by November 9.

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