Swift Reactions to E.U. Vote on Online Gambling

Published Wednesday, March 11, 2009 - Online-Casinos.com

For those who were expecting the European Union to "liberalize" the online gambling industry, recent news that the vote in favour of an own-initiative report will not be pleased.

Deputies voted strongly in favour for the report by Danish Socialist member Christel Schaldemose on the 'integrity' of online gambling. In total 544 voted positive with 36 against and 66 abstentions.

MEP Malcolm Harbour, a center to right wing member from the United Kingdom tabled an alternative report that argued internal market rules should apply to gambling activities. Mr. Harbour stated that the E.U. parliament had "missed an opportunity." adding, "Several member states continue to have their heads in the sand, failing to recognise the realities of a dynamic gambling market." He went on to say, the situation in the UK "has proved how a liberalized, but effectively regulated market, can achieve both a high level of consumer protection and integrity in online gambling."

Christel Schaldemose said there had been an 'explosion' in online gambling. She also stated, "This is not about restricting the private sector but about commonsense action to protect vulnerable people."

Arlene McCarthy the British Socialist deputy who is chairperson for the parliament's internal market and consumer protection committee, said, " E.U. member states have the right to set their own laws on gambling. No member state has the right to set hypocritical laws that discriminate in favour of domestic and government-owned operators. But we cannot ignore genuine concerns to ensure the integrity of gambling services."

The gambling industry was quick to react as state lottery associations welcomed the outcome of the vote, while private gambling operators contested that the report failed to recognize the global nature of online gambling.

The European Gaming and Betting Association secretary-general Sigrid Ligné, added, "The vote shows that we cannot expect E.U. harmonized legislation to be adopted in the near future. "This means that case law of the court of justice will prevail for our sector in the years to come."

Ron Goudsmit, chair of the European Casino Association pointed out that the vote, "acknowledges that member states are best placed" to guarantee consumer protection in gambling.

European Lotteries president Winfried Wortmann said, "Parliament is well aware that gambling is a sensitive area and that lifting well-founded restrictions would create issues with regard to consumer protection and public order."

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