EU Heads Towards Digital Standardisation, As UK Faces Brexit Uncertainty
Source: VIXIO Gambling Compliance.
On the day of the UK’s departure from the EU, the European Gaming and Betting Association (EGBA) has urged the European Commission to include a review of its approach to online gambling in a drive for consistent digital rules.
Speaking with VIXIO GamblingCompliance, the EGBA said it is confident that strengthening the operation of the digital single market will lead to more European online gambling standardisation.
The news comes as the UK leaves the European Union and enters its “transition period” with the EU until the end of 2020.
EGBA secretary general Maarten Haijer said the EU’s policy emphasis on making the digital economy work for consumers will “inevitably” see online gambling regulation “pulled into the discussion”.
“With 26 of 27 EU member states now having a comparable multi-licence regime, the regulatory differences between countries are getting smaller and the need for common solutions increases. The question is not whether, but how and at what pace this regulatory convergence will happen,” said Haijer.
There are more than 16.5m regular gamblers in the EU, according to the trade group.
The European Commission 2020 work programme, entitled “An ambitious roadmap for a Union that strives for more”, lists president Ursula von der Leyen’s six primary objectives, including making the “EU fit for the digital age”.
Von der Leyen has set out her ambitions to implement a new European data strategy, aimed at turning non-personal data into a “reusable asset in the digital economy”.
“This will cover the best possible use of the potential of digital data and the development and uptake of artificial intelligence that respects our European values and fundamental rights,” according to von der Leyen.
Additionally, the EGBA welcomed the European Commission’s promise to “report on the Single Market Barriers and propose a Single Market Enforcement Action Plan to ensure better implementation and enforcement”.
Despite European Union member states achieving high levels of standardisation across most industries, gambling regulation remains fractured.
In December 2017, the commission announced that it would drop all online gambling enforcement cases, leaving key decisions about compliance with EU law to member state’s national courts.
In 2018, the EGBA launched a manifesto entitled “An EU framework for Online Gambling 2.0”, which called for the EU to “urgently” review the implementation of Commission Recommendation 2014/478/EU.
The recommendation is aimed at establishing a high level of consumer protection standards across Europe; however, researcher Dr Margaret Carran said varying national interests and the recommendation’s voluntary nature have seen it unable to achieve its primary aim.
Additionally, the commission’s Expert Group on Gambling Services, tasked with establishing cooperation relating to gambling services, implementing gambling policy initiatives and monitoring the development of gambling services, has not met since the end of 2018.
Despite this, cooperation between European regulators has undoubtedly improved over the past few years.
Speaking at the CMS conference on January 22, 2020, UK Gambling Commission CEO Neil McArthur praised European regulators for striving to “work even more closely with other regulators”.
“Whether it be colleagues in Gibraltar who we met with last spring; Malta’s MGA who we visited in October and are here today; the Danish Gaming Authority who met with us last year; or the many others from around Europe and the world. Increasingly I think you will see cross regulator action being taken in the years to come,” he said.
However, as the EGBA and the European Commission push towards more standardisation, UK gambling industry stakeholders are preparing for the regulatory uncertainty of Brexit.
Haijer said that EGBA members have taken measures to mitigate Brexit’s risks but believes the impact will depend on the UK’s future relationship with the EU.
“There is a broad range of EU legislation applicable and relevant to the gambling sector which is on the statute book in the UK, such as GDPR, AML, company law, payment services regulations, etc, and we don’t know yet whether the UK will retain these rules or not.”
The EGBA also fears that if the UK fails to reach an agreement with the EU by the end of its transition period at the end of 2020 “cross-border data sharing with the UK would be impossible under the GDPR. So, there are Brexit uncertainties that will remain.”
Separately, the EGBA has launched a consultation on its draft online gambling industry data protection code of conduct. Submissions for the consultation close on February 25, 2020.
© VIXIO Gambling Compliance | 31st Jan 2020 | Written by: Harrison Sayers