Brussels, 22 March 2019– Today the European Council meeting in Brussels invited the Commission to come forward with a long-term action plan for better implementation and enforcement of Europe’s Single Market rules. The European Gaming and Betting Association (EGBA) welcomes the Council’s statement and urges the incoming European Commission and Parliament to focus on ensuring the Single Market rules are better implemented and enforced to benefit European consumers, particularly in the online environment.
The Council’s conclusions are timely and justified. Despite the Digital Single Market being high up the political agenda over the past years, it has not been sufficiently developed to enable Europe’s citizens to benefit from the full potential of a truly functional and integrated online Single Market. The Council aims to correct this with its call on the Commission, as Guardian of the Treaties, to focus on ensuring that the existing rules and freedoms of the Single Market are properly implemented for the benefit of EU consumers.
Making the Digital Single Market work for EU citizens who bet or play poker online is crucial – because today they are less well protected than a person who buys a plane ticket or a book online. A recent study by the City University of London attributed Europe’s failure to protect online gamblers to the highly fragmented nature of the national policy rules for online gambling. The study showed that the Digital Single Market is failing to protect online gamblers and found that only one country has fully implemented the Commission’s guidelines aimed at providing EU citizens a basic set on consumer protection measures dedicated to responsible gambling.
Unfortunately, the Commission made these matters worse when it, in 2017, decided to stop enforcing EU single market law in the area of online gambling and systematically disregarded legitimate legal complaints about breaches of EU law in the sector. In 2018, the Commission also disbanded the regulatory cooperation between the 28 national gambling authorities, leaving the sector without any structural dialogue on important issues like consumer protection, fraud prevention and cross border enforcement.
The Commission’s decision is to the continued detriment of EU consumers. Regardless whether they buy a book or place a bet online, all consumers should benefit from equally applied and enforced rules which protect them and their rights online.
“It is 2019: if the EU is really serious about making the digital single market work for its consumers, then the Commission should enforce EU law in all online sectors, including online gambling. We call on the Commission to fulfil its task as the Guardian of the Treaties by enforcing EU law in the whole online environment. The Commission should also reinstate the regulatory cooperation between Member States in online gambling, to allow structured dialogue and help improve cross-border cooperation and the protection of consumers. It is time for the Commission to act.” – Maarten Haijer, Secretary General, European Gaming and Betting Association (EGBA).
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