Stanleybet welcomes the adoption of the European Parliament Report on online gambling in the Internal Market [2012/2322(INI)] and is pleased to note that in the Report the EP has reiterated the primacy of the need for EU law enforcement in the sector.
Indeed, the Report repeatedly notes that Member States, when regulating their gambling market, have to respect the EU Treaty Principles (Recital H, Paras 1, 26,29,30,33,42).
The political will in that respect of the EP should be taken fully on board by the European Commission that needs to proceed with infringement proceedings, especially against those Member States that opt for a restrictive model but do not respect the principles set out in the Court of Justice of EU (CJEU) jurisprudence and in the Treaties of the EU.
“In the last few years the European Parliament seems to be coming some way in dismissing myths around gambling and adopting facts”, Stanleybet Chief Operating Officer John Whittaker notes. “But it remains unfortunate that gambling still appears to be one of the only areas where evidence-based policy making has no place. This is evident in certain assertions made in the report which convey the unfounded message that gambling is in general a necessary evil without considering it as a leisure activity, like millions of consumers in the EU do, besides a source of lawful employment for tens of thousands of European citizens and a very substantial source of tax revenue from which the exchequers of all Member States benefit. Furthermore, we cannot but note that it is the European Commission that seems to be bending to the political will of Member States by failing to enforce EU law. If this Commission until the end of its term continues to be afraid to rock the political boat then that will set a dangerous precedent for the EU overall”, John Whittaker continues.
There are numerous cases of legislation of Member States like Greece, Germany, Italy that have been brought to the attention of the European Commission recently but there are also infringement proceedings against some of these and other Member States that have been inexplicably frozen since 2008. The Commission has admitted that they have approximately 40 pending cases open but still, apart from being in a constant dialogue with the authorities concerned that remain defiant, it is yet to take any steps forward in enforcing EU law. “In 2011, with MEP Creutzmann’s Report, the EP already called on the Commission to act but those calls remained unanswered. Now the EP is sending the same message of the need for legal clarity. We hope this time these calls will not remain again unheeded by this Commission”, John Whittaker concludes.
Greece is the most egregious example of Commission inaction. In contrary to what is described in the EP Report as a coherent gambling policy in line with EU law, Greece has a restrictive gambling market where a fully privatized, for-profit company, OPAP SA, retains a monopoly solely for the sake of enriching its private investors, after benefitting for years from unlawful tax aid; hardly anything in line with CJEU principles as outlined in the Court’s most recent relevant ruling (Case C-186/11 Stanleybet International and Others). Furthermore, in order to make OPAP SA more attractive for prospective buyers, in 2012 the Greek government endowed it with more monopolistic privileges and still the European Commission seems unwilling to take action and furthermore refuses to order Greece to recover from OPAP SA the unlawful tax aid enjoyed in the past.