This week the representative trade body for most of Europe's major online gambling companies, the European Gaming and Betting Association (EGBA) sent a note to the European Commission prompting it to become more active in the domain of curbing market fragmentation and protecting consumers.
The organization said that its EU operators have lodged formal complaint with the Commission against the new German gambling régime based on grounds of its incompatibility with the EU treaty, adding that there are high expectations from the Commission's Communication and Action Plan on online gambling, scheduled for delivery mid to late October, that a more harmonized, player-protective system will be introduced.
According to the EGBA Secretary General Sigrid Ligné, “We deplore the situation today where we see 27 ‘mini-markets’ for gambling in Europe. We are calling for the introduction of European rules to ensure proper protection for consumers and maintain a crime-free environment throughout the EU, while affording open, fair and transparent licensing conditions for EU-regulated operators.
"We urge the European Commission to handle our complaint urgently as Germany is in the process of allocating licenses on the basis of a highly contentious tendering procedure which appears, on the basis of an accumulation of evidence, not to be designed to pursue the declared purpose of conducting an open, fair and transparent Europe-wide call for bids."
Back in June, the head of the Commission, Michele Barnier, reinstated the Commission’s commitment to ensuring that national regimes are in line with the EU Treaty, and underlined that there are currently 9 infringement procedures on hold, and many more new complaints have been filed to the Commission.
However, according to Ligne, "Unfortunately, the situation is worsening in a number of jurisdictions. Several Member States have decided to move forward with legislation that is - at best - highly questionable under EU law. Some have even gone a step further. If the Commission fails to provide a timetable for reactivating these dormant procedures, and to take rapid action against new offenders, certain Member States will continue to consider that they have “carte blanche” to do as they please."
EGBA strives to see the EU-wide, sector specific legislation that regulates both market access and consumer protection issues, and for this it estimates the following regulations are necessary: common consumer protection standards based on the existing CEN (European Committee for Standardisation) workshop agreement, common technical standards and reporting tools, and common licensing requirements.
“Can the Commission afford to sit back and ignore an online industry which is set to grow from Euro 8.5 billion in 2010 to Euro 13 billion in 2015?” concluded Ligné.