International edition
September 23, 2020

Over illegal national gambling laws

Commission commits to take member states to CJEU

(UK).- EU online gambling operators hail the European Commission's decision to start enforcing EU law against illegal national gambling laws. This decision is part of the twofold approach of the Commission’s Communication on online gambling that also contains actions for the first common European measures to be set in this sector.

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U law compliance & reactivation of infringements

According to the European Commission (EC); “ensuring compliance of national law with the Treaty is […] a prerequisite of a successful EU policy on online gambling” (Communication, p.  5). EGBA fully endorses this conclusion and applauds today´s EC decision to relaunch infringement proceedings – and where necessary referrals to the European Court of Justice (CJEU) – against 9 Member States (1)  and to investigate the gambling laws of 16 Member States(2) subject to recent complaints.

This decision ends four years of legal and regulatory limbo as some of these laws were originally considered breaking single market rules by the Commission as long ago as 2007.

The EC will “take action to enforce the relevant Treaty provisions in respect of any national rules not complying with EU law” and will “simultaneously with the adoption of this Communication” ask all Member States against which infringement cases are open or complaints have been registered to provide updated information that is needed to complete its assessment of compatibility with EU law (Communication, p.7).

Sigrid Ligné, Secretary General of EGBA said: “We are pleased with the EC's decision today to take formal action against non-compliant national gambling laws. We expect litigation at EU level to swiftly restore legal certainty for our sector in Europe. Unjustified restrictions and protectionist regimes have been hampering the sustainability of EU operators for far too long. This is a good day for the online gambling sector in the EU.”

Common European measures for online gambling

EGBA acknowledges the efforts made by Commissioner Barnier and his services ever since the launch of the “Green Paper on Online Gambling in the Internal Market”. For the first time online gambling is included in the Commission’s Work Programme, recognising it as a fast growing service activity whose significance is shown by its high level of innovation and its contribution to economic growth, tax revenue and job creation in the EU.

EGBA in particular welcomes the EC’s confirmation that:

 “The development of an attractive range of legal gambling opportunities is key to effectively prevent consumers from going on unregulated sites”  (Communication, p.6)
 It will take action “designed to offer a common and high level of protection to all European consumers and citizens, including minors and vulnerable groups.” (Communication, p.6)

Administrative cooperation  needs “to result in a reduction of unnecessary administrative burdens, in particular in the authorisation process and the supervision of operators authorised in more than one jurisdiction” (Communication, p.9)

EGBA does however question how the EC, through reliance on “soft” rules rather than legislation, intends to deliver concrete results to stop the rapid emergence of “27 mini markets” in the EU and reverse – for a sector which is cross border by nature – the plethora of purely national licensing requirements.

If the EC takes leadership in addressing these issues, the Communication should present a good first step to an EU harmonised market. EGBA has taken careful note that the Commission committed itself to publish an assessment report within two years and decide whether “additional measures, where necessary legislative ones, need to be taken at EU level” (Communication, p.18)

Sigrid Ligné concluded that “the Commission's leadership in developing targeted actions and the strict enforcement of EU law will prove essential to ensure a first level of convergence of national legislation and Member State compliance with the Treaties.”

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