European Commission

The European Commission is reviewing legislation of member states regarding gambling laws (Image: European Commission website)

The European Commission has launched formal infringement proceedings against the online gambling legislation of Belgium, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Lithuania, Poland and Romania, with more countries expected to follow, after calls from the European Parliament for the European Commission to act as the Guardian of the Treaties emerged.

Reviewing Legislation

Now, each of these countries has been sent a formal letter of notice by the European Commission as part of an official request for information. The notifications intend to investigate the national legislation and the restriction of gambling services in each of the six Member States, in order to ensure that the national regulations comply with the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.

According to a Commission press release, Member States in the EU are essentially able to set their own policies and objectives in terms of online gambling, and may restrict or limit the cross-border supply of any or all gambling services based on the safe-guarding of public interest and consumer protection, as well as to help protect against fraud and other criminal activities. However, the policies in place in each nation must also abide by EU laws and regulations.

Therefore, countries in the EU must demonstrate that any measures in question are suitable and necessary, and that any public interest objectives are consistently and systematically pursued. Each Member State is forbidden from undertaking, facilitating or tolerating any measures which would go against these objectives.

The proceedings mark the first time in more than five years that the Commission has opened a series of infringement proceedings against nations restricting the supply of gambling services, and comes after the European Parliament called for the launch of infringements against “member states that appear to breach EU law” reported back in September.

Infringement Proceedings Possible

If a state fails to observe its obligations under the Treaty of the Functioning of the European Union, then the European Commission has the power and authority to begin taking action against that state and propose infringement proceedings.

While each state typically is given two months to respond to each stage, the College of Commissioners must then vote in favor of a reasoned opinion, or continuing with court action, meaning any escalation of the proposed infringements would be a political decision.

Put simply, the Commission is looking to investigate whether or not the measures being taken by each state comply with the EU’s regulations of free movement of services. The process will investigate licensing procedures and conditions for the provision of gambling services, as well as transparency and coherence of national gambling policy and the equal treatment of service providers in each country for which doubt is applicable.

The move by the European Commission could well be beneficial for much of the gambling industry, as further clarity of the rules and regulations will be brought to light, and other Member States will be able to put in place commercially viable and effective legislation to avoid similar action with the guidelines laid out before them. Effectively, they can learn from the mistakes of others without having to go through the proceedings themselves.