It’s rare that a day goes by in the EU without some kind of political development related to online gambling.
Action plans, Roadmaps, Comprehensive Frameworks, Green Papers, EU parliamentary votes, EC infringement proceedings, new blacklists issued by member states…the list goes on. Occasionally we even see a high profile CEO detained for police questioning.
And so it was today, with the European Parliament voting in favour (572 for, 79 against, 61 abstentions) of a resolution to adopt the recommendations of the report ‘Online Gambling in the Internal Market‘ during a plenary session in Strasbourg.
The report, authored by MEP Ashley Fox, and subsequently amended (watered down a bit) by the EU Internal Market and Consumer Protection (IMCO) committee makes a raft of recommendations for EU-wide regulation of online gambling. All the feel-good, responsible governance stuff is there in spades: measures to ensure consumer protection, prevent money laundering, preserve the integrity of sports and foster administrative co-operation between the European Commission and Member States.
The interesting bits come under the heading, Compliance with EU law:
29. …Member States have the right to determine how the offer of online gambling services is to be organised and regulated at national level, and the right to enforce all measures they consider necessary against illegal gambling services, while observing the basic EU Treaty principles; recognises that such legislation must be proportionate, consistent, transparent, and non-discriminatory; notes the need for more coherent EU policies in order to address the cross-border nature of online gambling;
30. Notes that the Commission has sent letters to a number of Member States asking for detailed information on their current gambling legislation; calls on the Commission to continue the dialogue with the Member States; takes note of the Commission’s work on the infringement cases and on complaints brought against certain Member States; calls on the Commission to continue to monitor and enforce compliance of national laws and practices with EU law, in cooperation with the Member States, and to launch infringement procedures against those Member States that appear to breach EU law; respects the decision taken by the Member States in relation to the establishment of monopolies in this sector, provided that, in line with the case-law of the Court of Justice, they are subject to strict state control and ensure a particularly high level of consumer protection, that their activities are coherent with the objectives of general interest and that they reduce gambling opportunities in a consistent manner;
On my reading of this, it sounds like Member States must now follow EU law…unless they don’t want to in which case their own (monopoly preserving) laws are fine. The important thing is that the lines of communication are kept open either way. This may include an infringement proceeding letter or two, which will no doubt be considered in earnest by recipient Member States before being filed away accordingly.
The overwhelming support for this resolution suggests the EU wants to take action when it comes to online gambling regulation. This is encouraging. Just not sure what that action will be (beyond votes, reports and recommendations that is)?