Online gambling is a fast growing service activity in the EU, with annual growth rates of almost 15% and expected revenues of €13 billion in 2015. Continued technological innovation is increasing access to online gambling services, particularly across borders. The Commission estimates that nearly 7 million Europeans participate in online gambling.
The special nature of online gambling services exposes consumers, in particular vulnerable consumers such as children, to a series of risks, including the risk of addiction.What is more, the diversity of regulatory frameworks in the EU - from monopolistic regimes run by a public or private operator to licencing systems with multiple operators - means that some gambling sites operate within the EU outside any form of regulatory control. Other challenges include increasing levels of crime, tax evasion, money laundering and match fixing. It is becoming clear that coordinated action at EU level is necessary to meet the challenges of this growing sector.
IMCO follows developments in this sector actively and has set out the Parliament's approach in a series of three resolutions over the past years, emphasizing that whilst it is important to ensure the internal market freedoms of establishment and cross border service provision are respected, gambling is not an ordinary economic activity and the protection of human health and consumers should be the guiding principle for any national or EU -level action.
The way forward
Following the Commission Green Paper in 2011 and in response to the European Parliament resolutions, the Commission in 2012 produced an action plan for a comprehensive European framework for online gambling. This plan put forward a series of measures to improve the prevention of fraud and money laundering, improvement of administrative cooperation and enforcement between Member States, safeguarding the integrity of sports, ensuring compliance with EU law and the protection of consumers.
In reaction, IMCO prepared a third parliamentary resolution on online gambling, adopted in 2013. The resolution calls for a series of actions from the Member States and the Commission:
• Ensure a high level of consumer and health protection in the Union through common standards
• Take action against illegal gambling (e.g. the illegal engagement of minors, money laundering and inadequate licensing)
• Protect the integrity of sports (fight against match fixing and installation of a European alert system for betting regulators to share information)
• Continue coordinated research into understanding problem gambling and possibility for EU-wide interoperability of nation frameworks
• Strengthen security and enforcement through best practices and information sharing
• Continue to monitor and enforce compliance of national laws and practices with EU law
• Work towards transparent and simplified procedures that are more ambitious in addressing the social costs and harmful effects of gambling
IMCO will continue to engage with Member States and the Commission to pursue work in this area.
Rapporteur: Ashley Fox (ECR)
Shadows: Sirpa Pietikäinen (EPP), Christel Schaldemose (S&D), Jürgen Creutzmann (ALDE), Heide Rühle (Greens), Cornelis De Jong (GUE/NGL), Matteo Salvini (EFD)
Opinion: CULT and JURI.