EU Action Plan on Online Gambling Criticized in Letter to Commissioner

Posted on: January 31, 2013, 06:29h. 

Last updated on: February 1, 2013, 12:54h.

Three prominent trade groups of the European gaming industry have expressed their concerns with the recently unveiled EU Action Plan on Online Gambling in a letter to EU Internal Markets and Services Commissioner, Michel Barnier.

That plan was unveiled in October of last year, the culmination of three years of work with the stated aim of building the framework for a unified EU regulatory system for online gaming. What it ultimately provided was anything but, effectively leaving the management of each member’s gaming regulations up to them, save for a few overarching guidelines. As stated in the Commission press release at the time of the Action Plan’s unveiling: “The Commission is not proposing EU-wide legislation on online gambling. It is proposing a comprehensive set of actions and common principles on protection.”

Yet according to that recently delivered trade group letter, it not only failed on that front, it has also failed to meet its expectations to European gamers in protecting their interests and ensuring they have a safe, fair, and regulated environment to game in.

The trade groups represented by the letter are The European Lotteries Association (ELA), the European Casino Association (ECA), and the European Pari Mutuel Association (EPMA), and they specifically cite the continued operation of numerous unlicensed operators, who are doing so out of several EU member states. Not only are they operating in defiance of regulations, they’re also advertising with impunity, and drawing in new customers to their sites.

“The Commission and its services however do not seem to show that the fight against illegal gambling offers is a priority by addressing it,” the letter claims. “The widespread availability of illegal gambling … is a cross-border problem”.

What the letter recommends is that the Commission build a blacklist of unlicensed sites and block access to them, as well as work to freeze their assets so that the players of those sites can be properly reimbursed.

While the letter certainly makes a strong case, and really does make one wonder just what those three years of building the ineffective Action Plan were worth, there are no plans to make amendments or changes to the existing action plan for another two years. At that time a report will be filed by an expert committee which has been tasked with overseeing how the Action Plan fares and what changes may be needed to make it more effective.

According to the trade groups, those changes are many, and are vital to safeguarding consumers and the industry from harm. Yet with how powerless the initial Action Plan was thanks to fractured interests amongst its members, there’s no telling how the letter’s recommendations will be taken at that time, and what, if any, meaningful changes will be made to it.