Online Gambling in the European Union

The Commission’s manifesto calls for implementing European rules so the Commission can fulfill its role as guardian of the treaty that bins the EU together...

Unlike the United States, there is not a great moral objection to gambling, but there is concern by European commissioners that the hodge podge of laws among different member states could lead to those intent on using online gambling for illegal activity taking advantage of the confusion. Recently European commissioners put member states on notice that the European Commission would seek to take a more active role in regulating the various laws not only to monitor illegal activity but to help weaker states deal with the problems cause by online gambling.

For the EU Commissioners there are certain aspects of online gambling that worry them most. Under age gambling is a problem in some member states. Money laundering is seen as a serious issue and match fixing is close behind as an issue of concern. The action plan that the EU hopes to put into effect soon would crack down on illegal websites hosted by offshore havens and regulate the legal websites that are popping up all over Europe.

The problem for European Commissioners is one they often have. To take an umbrella EU law and apply it to the myriad laws and regulations of each member state can be very difficult. The EU plans a two-pronged attack to bring some clarity to the online gaming issue in Europe. First the Commission will act against member states whose current laws and regulations conflict with EU laws by more aggressively reactivating pending infringements and complaints. Second, the EU Commission will propose a number of policy incentives in the fall of 2012 in order to bring about a common European base of standards and measures. The goal of these actions is to bring order to the online gambling world and provide a certain level of consumer protection.

The EU hasn’t taken any serious action against member states regarding online gambling since 2008. In these past four years, the online gambling industry has exploded with more options, more money and more interest by nefarious actors. The EU Commission now seems ready to step in when there are serious infringement violations to both protect consumers and to create a fair playing field for legal online gambling operators.

The Commission’s manifesto calls for implementing European rules so the Commission can fulfill its role as guardian of the treaty that bins the EU together. It also calls for creating a structured regulatory cooperation among several national authorities. Most important it provides an EU legal framework for online gambling to provide some consistency. Finally the manifesto gives the EU authority to tackle issues of gambling addiction and sports fraud.

Clearly the challenge for the European Union is to make sense of the patchwork of laws and regulations throughout its member states. These many different regulations have led to lengthy legal challenges, administrative redundancy and limited protection for consumers against unregulated websites run by unscrupulous operators on the black market.