Wednesday

16th Jan 2019

Gambling in the EU: A long way from harmonised rules

  • Harmonised EU rules for the gambling industry are still a distant prospect (Photo: Flickr.com)

Decisions on who can open and shut down a casino, a lottery or an online gambling site remain at national level, but there is a trend to more unified rules across EU's 28 member states.

The gambling sector is a very profitable business, with revenues of over €80 billion a year.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

Online gambling is the fastest rising sector with revenues expected to reach €13 billion next year, compared to €9.3 billion in 2011. Despite its cross-border nature, the licensing system and specific rules governing online gambling remain national.

Neither is the EU involved in specifically regulating the activity of casinos or lotteries. The only cases it can pursue and take governments to court for are breaches of the single market legislation by state-owned lotteries or other gambling outfits that abuse their dominant position.

Some members of the European Parliament and the umbrella association for the gambling industry – the European Gaming and Betting Association – have made the case for harmonised legislation across the EU, in order to increase transparency and revenues that are currently hindered by the fragmentation into 28 smaller national markets each with its peculiarities.

Jurgen Creutzmann, a German Liberal MEP who drafted one of the Parliament's reports on online gambling, told this website that the move towards a more harmonised system is still far away.

"The subsidiarity principle applies. So states can still have monopolies or move towards a license system – a trend that can be seen in most EU countries in the past few years. But then they have to abide by the rulings of the European Court of Justice in terms of transparency when giving licenses and a level playing field," Creutzmann said.

But he also noted that several member states who scrapped their state monopolies have not done much to allow for competition on the gambling market. Germany for instance moved to a licensing system, but said it will only hand out about 20 licenses, despite there being nearly 100 interested operators and the German market the largest in Europe.

"I am sure the German law will be proven in breach of EU law," Creutzmann said in reference to an inquiry launched by the EU commission which may end with Berlin being taken to the ECJ.

"Match fixing, money laundering, fair competition – you can't solve all these things unless you have European solutions. When all member states will have licenses – and almost all have moved to that – then Europe can play a better role," Creutzmann said.

With the Barroso commission coming to the end of its term this year, it is unlikely that the European executive will move on proposing binding legislation on harmonising gambling rules.

The commissioner in charge of internal market, Michel Barnier, has come up with "soft legislation" – non-binding proposals and studies aimed at encouraging national governments to streamline their legislation according to the ECJ rulings.

On one aspect of gambling – possible money laundering – the EU is moving to a single set of rules as part of an overhaul of the anti-money laundering directive, which the EU commission and the European Parliament want to expand to online and offline gambling services.

Countries with a high stake in gambling, such as Malta, already have signalled opposition to the revised rules.

Five out of Malta's total of six MEPs voted against the proposed rules after having consulted with the government on the matter.

Maltese Labour MEP Marlene Mizzi said she voted against these "draconian rules" for fear of its "repercussions on Malta’s financial services".

Even if the majority of MEPs voted in favour of these rules, a deal with member states is still pending and only likely to be achieved towards the end of the year, once the new EU Parliament and commission are in place.

Stakeholder

Online gambling and consumer protection

With the European elections around the corner and having entered a period characterised by the wrapping-up of ongoing legislative initiatives, the European Commission pursues its work in the online gambling sector.

Focus

Spanish charity fears liberalisation of online gambling

The European Commission opened a legal, political and cultural can of worms when earlier this year it said it would take a closer look at online gambling in the EU. Spain's association for blind people is particularly concerned.

EU court strikes down Germany's gambling monopoly

In a landmark ruling which may "ruin" German state lotteries and bring in big gains for private betting companies, the EU's top court said that the current state monopoly on gambling is "unjustifiable" and in breach of EU law.

EU bleeding untold billions to fraud

Over €6bn of EU taxpayers' money was stolen by criminals in recent years and over €130m is still being lost each year, EU auditors said.

ECB takes over ailing Italian bank

Decades of mismanagement appear to have caught up with Italy's Carige bank as the European Central Bank takes control in a move to stave off another banking crisis.

News in Brief

  1. May's Brexit deal defeated by 230 votes
  2. German economy hit by global economic turbulence
  3. MEPs narrowly call for end to 'tampon tax'
  4. MEPs back spending €6bn on fusion energy research
  5. MEPs call for 'awareness campaign' on autonomous car benefits
  6. German glyphosate report 'copy-pasted' from industry
  7. Commission set to reveal controversial common tax plan
  8. Merkel plans major EU-China summit for 2020

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  8. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General

Latest News

  1. UK parliament rejects May's Brexit deal in historic defeat
  2. EU suggests majority vote on digital tax by 2025
  3. MEPs redouble appeal on sexual harassment
  4. Trump's wall vs Europe's sea
  5. Centre-right MEPs want transparency vote to be secret
  6. Germany scorns 'unusual' US threat on Russia pipeline
  7. UK parliament vote expected to prompt Brexit delay
  8. Pro-EU MEPs still see room for stopping Brexit

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs
  2. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  3. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  4. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  5. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  6. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  8. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  10. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  12. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us