EU Commission Releases Online Gambling Action Plan
Recent meeting of the European Commission could have far ranging effects on the online bingo and casino industry. Online gambling has been a huge growth area for gaming companies and more consumers are using mobile devices to access online gambling and bingo sites. The Commission announced that it was not proposing EU-wide legislation for internet gambling and also said that it prefers a cooperative approach to the issues posed by online gaming. While the Commission did not propose any legislation it did release an action plan on October 23rd.
The action plan has been in the works for some time and originally was part of an internal market review by the previous commission. At the time the plan was ruled out as being "too sensitive" and eventually was released a green paper consultation in 2011. In the commission's own words the consultation is seeking to "obtain a full picture of the existing situation" of the online gaming industry and the European Union's internal market. The commission's findings showed that the online gaming industry has a 15% annual growth rate. The commission predicted that by 2015 the industry will generate about €13 billion. The commission also noted the fact that there are about 15,000 unregulated online gambling websites available to consumers in the EU.
The commission's new action plan consists of a series of initiatives to be carried out during the next two years and are aimed at "clarifying the regulation of online gambling and encouraging co-operation between member states". The European Commission did not propose EU wide legislation and said the initiatives would propose a set of "actions and common principles on protection" throughout the EU. Commission sources said that the EU online gaming market is fractured and is difficult to regulate. In many EU states regulations have been set up to protect state owned gambling monopolies. Germany and the Netherlands, prohibit all online gambling activities.
According to the commission's action plan the focus will be on five areas; compliance with the laws, cooperation between member states, consumer protection, preventing fraud and money laundering and protecting the integrity of sports. In reality the action plan preserves the status quo and allows member nations to implement their own laws and regulations. Five prominent online gaming companies, including some of the largest online bingo operators, have filed complaints with the commission. They are hoping for a consistent set of laws but it appears that won't happen anytime soon.
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