EGBA urges EU action to enhance gambling consumer protection

22 July 2019

The European Gaming and Betting Association (EGBA) has called on the European Commission to work towards a standardised regulatory framework for gambling across the continent.

In an open letter to the Commission, EGBA secretary general Maarten Haijer argued that increased regulatory cooperation between jurisdictions, followed by more common rules, would be the “common sense” approach to improving consumer protection standards.

Haijer said that the current framework, in which each European Union member state is responsible for developing its own gambling regulations, meant that players are “experiencing varying levels of consumer protection when they bet online.

"The quality of protection depends solely on where they live,” he explained.

“[Member states] work in isolation from each other and without regard to the internet’s cross-border nature. The consequence: 28 very different sets of regulations and 28 different sets of customer experience.”

Haijer noted that the EC had recognised this issue in 2014 and set out a series of safeguards countries should adopt to create more consistent standards. However, he added, the decision to treat gambling as a country-specific issue meant these were not being enforced.

EGBA commissioned a study by London’s City University to examine how widely these standards had been adopted, and found only Denmark had implemented the EC’s safeguards in full.

“Only 14 EU countries have adopted a national self-exclusion register, and only 13 require ‘no underage betting’ signs on advertisements,” he said. “These are simple measures proposed by the Commission, yet they haven’t been introduced in most European countries. 

“Parallel to this, the Commission has disbanded a national expert group it facilitated. The group, made up of national betting regulators, was considered a great success and a valuable platform for exchanging best practices and information between countries.”

This meant that there was now no formal framework for regulators to collaborate on tackling the major industry facing the gambling sector, Haijer noted.

He went on to point out that this created an additional administrative burden on EGBA members. Its six member companies offer services across 19 EU countries, and collectively hold more than 134 online betting licences.

“That is an average 22 licenses per company. In many cases the licenses needed in one country comes with the same requirements as in another,” he said. “While having good verification and stringent licensing requirements makes sense, the administrative duplication doesn’t.”

Haijer said that the EC had to resume its push for greater regulatory cooperation and better enforcement of existing EU initiatives and laws to ensure a uniform standard of consumer protection across the continent.

“Making the single market work better for those citizens who bet online will require even higher standards than those applied to other online sectors,” he said. “But leaving it up to EU countries alone has not worked, so the incoming European Commission needs to act.

“The cross-border online betting world is hamstrung by a patchwork of national rules. It’s time for Brussels to bring countries together.”