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European Parliament MEPs to debate online gambling rules to combat fraud, addiction, consumers

9 Mar 2009

STRASBOURG, France -- (PRESS RELEASE) -- MEPs will on Monday debate whether online gambling should be regulated at a national or European level.

Over 3 million people in Europe bet online on sports like football, cricket and horse racing. For most it's a bit of fun but gambling addiction and match-fixing are darker sides of sports betting. On Monday MEPs will decide whether online sports betting should be regulated at a European or national level. A report by the Parliament's Internal Market Committee calls for national governments to regulate it. However, some MEPs on the Committee disagree and want European rules.

Monday evening in Strasbourg MEPs will debate a report on the "integrity of online gambling".

The report has generated some controversy with over 400 amendments being tabled in committee. Ultimately, however, the final report by Danish Socialist Christel Schaldemose, adopted by the Internal Market Committee and now before Parliament as a whole, calls on governments to agree a common position on issues such as:

Gambling addiction

Misuse of personal data or credit cards

Illegal betting behaviour and match-fixing

Age limits

A ban on credit and other measures to protect children and gambling addicts.

An amendment by Dutch Liberal Toine Manders calls for a monthly limit to be set on the amount a person can gamble and for "pre-paid" cards to be issued.

Although the report was adopted 32-10 by MEPs in Committee a minority of Members:

Believe it should be regulated in line with other activities in the EU's internal market

Think the danger of gambling addiction unproved

Believe some ongoing Court of Justice cases related to the issue should first be clarified.

"Sport fans expect to see honest games"

A public hearing by the Committee in February looked at the new challenges that online gambling represents on the Internet - in particular the danger of match-fixing and illegal betting on sports events.

The stories of South African cricketer Hans Cronje and Liverpool goalkeeper Bruce Grobbelaar provide a cautionary tale about how betting syndicates can influence players to throw or influence matches.

During the hearing Committee Chair Arlene McCarthy said, "match fixing is as old as sporting matches, but new technology opens up new risks for fraud alongside the positive opportunities it presents. Sport fans expect to see honest games, and I support tough action against all forms of match fixing and sport betting fraud."

However, she warned national governments against "hypocritical" national rules that would protect state-owned betting companies.

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