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European Commission Publishes Online Gambling Green Paper

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The European Commission (EC) has published an online gambling Green Paper designed to find out if member states of the European Union are willing to embrace an online gambling framework to centrally regulate the industry across Europe.

According to the Green Paper, there have always traditionally been two gambling models in Europe, the first being the licensing of private gambling operators in a strictly controlled environment, and the other being state-owned online gambling operations.

For instance, the UK, Malta and Gibraltar regulate online gambling and issue licenses in a controlled and monitored environment, while Italy, France, Spain, Germany Denmark and Belgium are countries still bound by state online gambling ‘monopolies.’

In the past, as the Green Paper points out, these different gambling models managed to co-exist because there was little scope for gambling to thrive across borders. However, the advent of the internet and thus online gambling has dramatically changed that.

Now, because most European players can access online casinos based all over the world with just a few mouse clicks, gambling has evolved into a truly ‘borderless’ endeavor and one which has been the cause of much debate within the European Union.

It’s no secret that the online gambling market represents the fastest growing segment of the total gambling market. In 2008, annual online gambling revenues reaching more than €6.16 billion, and there is speculation revenues could rise to €9.08 billion this year.

However, not everyone is happy with the Green Paper.

Said European Gaming and Betting Association (EGBA) secretary general Sigrid Ligné, ‘We welcome the Commission coming forward with a Green Paper and a factual discussion on all aspects of online gambling. But we are deeply concerned though that the focus of the paper seems to be on a national rather than an EU approach despite the clear cross-border nature of this sector.

‘We expect the Commission to propose an EU regulatory framework for online gambling, as it has done for other inherently highly regulated sectors such as telecoms or pharmaceuticals. In parallel, the Commission in its role as guardian of the Treaty should vigorously and systematically pursue infringement proceedings against those member states that continue to violate EU law, she said.

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