EU rules would better protect Europe’s 12 million online gamblers – study
As the new EU term begins much policy attention has already been given to the importance of making Europe’s digital economy work better for European consumers and businesses.
In this respect, a new European Parliament study, presented at the Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee (IMCO) on 2 September, identifies ways in which the EU digital economy could be strengthened and further enhanced to benefit consumers and businesses. One such measure identified by the study is to have more EU rules for online gambling to close existing gaps in consumer protection in the sector – which could also potentially save €6 billion per year.
These gaps are very real and a result of 28 different sets of Member State rules for online gambling. While there is some EU regulation which applies to online gambling, such as the GDPR and the Anti-Money Laundering Directive, it is a sector almost entirely regulated by national policies. These national rules work in isolation to each other and are contrary to the internet’s true, borderless nature – leading to fragmentation and different consumer protection rules for the 12 million Europeans who gamble online.
Existing consumer protection measures should be enforced
Recognising this problem, in 2014, the European Commission issued a non-binding Recommendation to Member States containing valuable guidelines for establishing a consistent and strong consumer protection framework for online gambling. But a recent study found it has only been fully implemented by one Member State and big gaps exist in how gamblers are protected across Europe. E.g. only 14 Member States have a self-exclusion register – recommended by the Commission – which allows consumers to block themselves from accessing gambling websites and is an important safety net for those who bet too much.
Regulatory cooperation should be re-established
Cooperation between regulatory authorities is an important tool to encourage information sharing, regular exchanges of best practices, dialogue and the development of common approaches and rules. But in the online gambling sector currently there is no formal framework for regulators to even communicate, let alone to jointly tackle the big issues affecting the sector – which are cross-border and require common solutions. The European Commission previously facilitated a national expert group of gambling regulators but it disbanded the group in 2018 despite regulators considering it to be a great success and valuable platform for exchanging information.
EGBA is calling on the EU to:
- Create a safer online gambling environment across Member States. MEPs and the incoming Commission should start by ensuring the implementation of the Commission’s 2014 Recommendation by all Member States through binding measures.
- Promote better alignment of national gambling policies. MEPs should encourage the incoming Commission to reinstate the expert group of national gambling authorities.
Stronger and more uniform consumer protection rules and enhanced regulatory cooperation would be a win-win-win: better regulation of Europe’s online gambling activities, higher consumer protection standards across the EU and more similar and clearer rules for EU gambling companies to comply with.
That’s why EGBA urges MEPs and the incoming Commission to work together in this new EU term to ensure a better standard of protection for Europeans and gambling policies fit for the digital age.