Straight from the source – EGBA interview with EBM Magazine

The following interview appeared in the November edition of EBM Magazine.

We catch up with Barry Magee who has been serving as Head of Communications at European Gaming and Betting Association since 2018. With a weight of experience under his belt and a keen eye on the future, Barry was happy to expand on the remit of the association, while also putting its achievements into perspective.

Q: Can you provide a brief history of EGBA and its key milestones? What was the motivation behind its establishment?

A: EGBA was established in 2003 as the representative for Europe’s major online gambling operators in Brussels. The association has accomplished various goals over the years, including our work to create licensing schemes in Europe, establishing an active network of national associations, a very good working relationship with regulators and creating various important pan-European industry guidelines. In 2021, we also established the European Safer Gambling Week (ESGW), a yearly EGBA-led initiative to promote safer gambling. In last year’s edition, we had 24 events and shared safer gambling messages across 17 EU countries, achieving 1.5 million social media impressions, and we aim to step up its impact each year.

Q: Could you highlight the initiatives you have been involved in this year? What issues are currently high on your agenda?

A: This year, we expanded our sustainability reporting, worked extensively to develop a European standard on markers of harm, and published new industry guidelines on anti-money laundering. All important pieces of work. We also actively engaged on key EU regulatory developments, including the Digital Services Act and EU anti-money laundering package, to represent the industry view. These are laws which will have a major impact on the activities of operators and our work on them will continue. Looking at the year ahead, safer gambling remains a top priority for the association, as well as inputting into key regulatory discussions in countries such as Ireland and Finland.

Q: EGBA currently consists of just six members, representing a small segment of the iGaming industry. Do you have strategies in place to engage smaller and medium-sized operators, affiliates, and suppliers with membership options tailored to their needs?

A: It is true that we are a small association in terms of the number of members, but they are the major players and account for a third of total EU online revenue. But we recognise the value of having a more diverse membership and it is the reason we recently introduced new associate membership options for other industry actors, including B-2-Bs. Given the importance of the wider industry ecosystem, this will help us to better unite the industry’s voice and provide us with a better understanding of how regulatory issues impact the wider industry.

Q: The regulatory landscape for iGaming in Europe shows varying levels of effectiveness. How does EGBA intend to facilitate knowledge exchange and share best practices between governments, policymakers, and the iGaming industry to improve regulatory outcomes?

A: One way to improve regulatory outcomes is to have better knowledge exchange between policy actors and the industry. This must be built on trust. EGBA continuously engages with regulators, to share information and to advocate for effective regulatory measures. We host a dedicated meeting for regulators twice a year where we share information about the activities of EGBA and its members, discuss specific policy issues, and try to understand better their concerns and priorities. These meetings are a useful channel for dialogue and are well attended by regulators, usually between 20-25 different national authorities participate. To support better industry organisation, we established the European Online Gambling Associations Platform, a network of 24 industry associations, which meets quarterly to facilitate better cooperation and information exchange between the industry.

Q: How important is collaboration between European operators and does the EGBA help to facilitate that?

A: The fragmented representation of the industry underlines the need for greater collaboration. We encourage operators to join trade associations, like EGBA, to facilitate more, and better, cooperation. On our part, we always seek to broaden our collaboration with operators who are not in our membership, inviting them to participate in EGBA’s industry codes or the European Safer Gambling Week (ESGW). This year’s ESGW is taking place on 13-19 November, and we encourage operators to join us in the initiative. By working together, we can strengthen our collective influence and better advocate for the sector through a more united front.

Q: What is your position on monopoly markets? Members will appreciate the fact Finland is changing but Norway looks far less likely.

A: Online monopolies are incompatible with the competitive, online world we live in and EGBA has consistently opposed them, be it fully exclusive monopolies like those in Finland and Norway, or partially monopolistic regimes in countries like Poland and Austria. The recent change in Sweden, and more recently Finland, are positive steps forward. Norway is an exception, but we believe it is only a matter of time before the authorities there recognise the inevitable need for change. Rather than wasting time and resources to enforce a failing monopoly, it would be more effective and efficient, long-term, to establish a licensing system that combines consumer choice and consumer protection. Sweden has done it, Finland is going to do it, other EU countries have already done it, so why not Norway?

Q: Europe is often cited as a mature region for online gambling with lots of regulation. Are there still some emerging markets for operators to get excited about and drive growth?

A: Absolutely. While Europe is a mature market, online is still picking up revenue share and is expected to grow 5% CAGR up to 2027, even under the status quo scenario. But there are other untapped market opportunities out there. For example, countries like Austria and Poland still have partial monopolies and we would hope to see these countries transition to a full licensing system in the future. There are also countries, like Cyprus and France, which still have prohibitions on online casinos, which we hope will become regulated in the future. Before those opportunities can be tapped into, I think we are likely to see even greater consolidation within the industry as compliance costs increase for operators and economies of scale become even more advantageous.

Q: In closing, what message would you like to convey to the European iGaming community?

A: Sustainability is so important. Whether it is betting on a horse race or playing poker, our industry offers enjoyment, and sometimes positive life changing experiences, to millions of people across Europe – and we want it to be that way. That means being more mindful of the industry’s impact on society and its players. Increasingly restrictive regulations, particularly around advertising, demand a socially responsible response. We need to recognise that political pressure is there, and only by responding maturely to this pressure can we ensure a sustainable future based on good practices, long-term revenues, and continued enjoyment for our customers. I am hopeful that the industry is on a much better path right now, but there is always room to challenge ourselves to do better.

Barry Magee

Head of Communications

European Gaming and Betting Association (EGBA)

About EGBA

The European Gaming and Betting Association (EGBA) is the Brussels-based trade association representing the leading online gambling operators established, licensed, and regulated within the EU, including bet365, Betsson Group, Entain, Flutter, Kindred Group, and 888 William Hill, while Aircash is an associate member. EGBA works together with national and EU authorities and other stakeholders towards a well-regulated and well-channelled online gambling market which provides a high level of consumer protection and takes account of the realities of the internet and online consumer demand. EGBA member companies meet rigorous regulatory standards and collectively hold 267 online gambling licenses, serving 31.2 million customers across 22 different European countries. They represent approximately one-third of Europe’s online gambling gross gaming revenue (GGR).

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