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Stronger cooperation needed on online gambling, MEPs say

7 Oct 2011

STRASBOURG -- (PRESS RELEASE) -- EU Member States should be free to maintain their own rules on online gambling, but should also step up EU-wide cooperation to counter the black market and protect children and vulnerable consumers, say Internal Market Committee MEPs in a resolution adopted on Thursday.

About 10% of all gambling in Europe, with a market volume in excess of €10 billion, is done on the internet, via mobile phones or interactive TV platforms.

The non-legislative resolution by Jürgen Creutzmann (ALDE, DE), passed with 30 votes in favour, 1 against and 3 abstentions, sets out Parliament's initial position on a Commission Green Paper of March 2011.

"The Commission Green Paper left everything wide open. We have now looked closely at all issues and set out the direction thus giving an impetus to the Commission's work", said Mr Creutzmann.

Subsidiarity plus coordination

The resolution rejects the idea of an EU law to regulate online gambling and emphasises that regulation of all gambling is subject to the subsidiarity principle. Member States are therefore free to determine how gambling is organised, and hence may maintain government monopolies or bans if they so wish.

The committee nonetheless believes that given the cross-border nature of online gambling, there is clear added value to be gained by an EU-wide coordinated approach in some areas, notably the fight against illegal gambling and preventing addiction.

Gambling licence for operators

To fight the black market, the resolution suggests introducing a licensing model to ensure that gambling providers meet the criteria imposed by the host Member State and that competition is fair and transparent.

The resolution calls for stronger cooperation among regulatory bodies to give them a sufficient remit, with the Commission acting as coordinator, to develop common standards for taking joint action against unlicensed gambling providers and possibly blacklisting illegal ones.

The Internal Market Information System (IMI), an electronic network linking public authorities within the EU, could serve as a basis for a more effective cooperation, the resolution says.

MEPs also call on the Commission to examine the possibility of a "legally binding instrument" obliging banks, credit card issuers and other payment system participants in the EU to block transactions between their clients and blacklisted gambling providers.

Protecting minors and preventing addiction

The resolution notes that online gambling "may involve a greater risk of addiction" inter alia due to "increased ease of access and the absence of social control". The EU needs to adopt common standards for consumer protection, the resolution says.

It also emphasises that in order to protect especially vulnerable and young players, controls such as age verification and restrictions for electronic payment need to be in place before any gaming activity begins.

To protect vulnerable consumers, MEPs also call on the Commission to explore common standards for operators or a framework directive and say that a European code of conduct for online gambling providers could be a first step.

Next steps

The draft report on online gambling is scheduled for a plenary vote in Strasbourg in November.
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