Commission publishes Green Paper about on-line gambling.
The offline channel must be examined or the picture obtained will be distorted
The consultation must not be used to justify further prevarication in the enforcement of existing Internal Market rules
The European Commission yesterday issued a long-awaited Green Paper and consultation about on-line gambling. However, in omitting to specifically address the offline distribution channel the Commission jeopardises the objective of achieving legal certainty across the sector
Brussels, 25 March 2011 – The Green Paper represents an important opportunity to fundamentally and objectively examine the challenges and opportunities presented by the rapid growth of the cross-border online gambling channel. Although we always support any opportunity to present objective facts instead of myths, we believe that this particular consultation is (1) incomplete and (2) risks perpetuating the legal inconsistency shown by certain Member States against EU law. More specifically:
(1) Gambling has two principal distribution channels: online and offline. Concentrating the consultation on the online channel risks producing an incomplete picture of the market as a whole, to the significant detriment of the offline channel. The consultation is only half there. Offline and online gambling are different distribution and access channels of the same service, with important similarities as well as differences. A balanced and efficient examination must logically look at all parts of the market. Failure to do so risks destroying the credibility of the whole exercise.
(2) As the Commission in one brief sentence mentions in the Green Paper, there has been a number of infringement cases against inconsistent restrictions that some Member States have imposed in their gambling markets. What the Commission fails to mention is that while certain Member States like Denmark have fully opened their online and offline channels to competition, others such as inter alia Sweden, Finland, have remained totally intransigent despite having received a Reasoned Opinion more than 3 years ago. The Commission is yet to pursue these cases to the European Court of Justice (ECJ). Others, such as France, have retained an offline sports betting monopoly unjustifiably restricting market opening to online, whilst in Greece to gaming machines as well. These countries are becoming even more inconsistent and in direct contradiction with ECJ jurisprudence that considers the offline channel as more traditional and carrying less risk to the consumer.
Adrian Morris, Stanleybet Deputy Managing Director comments, “Although we are confident that the Green Paper will bring much-needed facts to the debate, we still believe that only if it is accompanied by the effective enforcement of the existing rules, will the Commission demonstrate credibility and consistency in its approach to gambling policy”