Brussels, 24 March 2011
On-line gambling in Europe: let's discuss
On-line gambling is a fast developing business in Europe, with almost 15,000 websites already identified and total annual revenues exceeding € 6 billion in 2008 and expected to double in size by 2013. National legal frameworks vary enormously across the EU, with different rules applying to licensing, related on-line services, payments, public interest objectives, and the fight against fraud. In order to ensure legal certainty and effective protection of EU citizens in this fast-growing cross-border service activity, it is important to evaluate how possibly differing models can co-exist within the Internal Market. The primary aim of the Green Paper consultation, launched today, is therefore to obtain a facts-based picture of the existing situation in the EU on-line gambling market and of the different national regulatory models. The Commission seeks the views of stakeholders and wishes to collect detailed information and data on key policy issues such as organisation of on-line gambling services and enforcement of applicable laws; consumer protection and other relevant public policy challenges as well as commercial communications and payment services. Contributions to the consultation, which can be submitted until 31 July 2011, will determine the need for and form of any EU follow-up action in this field. Expert workshops on specific themes will be organised to complement this consultation.
Internal Market and Services Commissioner Michel Barnier said: "With this Green Paper, we have launched an ambitious consultation with no pre-determined views on its possible follow-up. The on-line gambling market in the EU continues to grow rapidly and generates important revenues that are sometimes channelled into good causes. Its expansion must go hand-in-hand with a determination to protect our citizens, especially minors, and to ensure that offers of these types of services within the EU are sound and well-regulated. It responds to calls from the European Parliament and the Member States for us to address these questions jointly. This consultation is not about liberalisation of the market, it is about ensuring that the market for on-line gambling services within the EU is well-regulated for all."
What is the public consultation about?
Societal and public order challenges arise from the on-line offer of gambling services in the EU, as well as regulatory and technical challenges. The key policy issues of the consultation are:
1. Definition and organisation of on-line gambling services: the Green Paper is consulting on the main advantages and/or difficulties associated with the co-existence in the EU of different national systems and practices for the licensing of on-line gambling services.
2. Related services performed and/or used by on-line gambling services providers: the Green Paper is consulting on rules and practices relating to on-line commercial communication, customer identification and regulations for payment systems for on-line gambling services and player accounts.
3. Public interest objectives:
This section of the consultation focuses on three objectives which to various degrees may be valid for Member States in terms of their national on-line gambling policies:
Consumer protection: the consultation aims to collect information on problem gambling and addiction and the measures pursued to protect players and prevent or limit such problems. Another key issue is how to ensure the protection of minors and other vulnerable groups. Questions raised relate to the promotion and marketing of on-line gambling and systems in place for customer identification, both for opening an account and for processing payments.
Public order: the Green Paper is consulting on best practices to detect and prevent fraud, money laundering and other crimes.
Financing of benevolent and public interest activities and events: The consultation looks at differing systems of revenue channelling for public interest activities and mechanisms for redistributing revenues from public and private on-line gambling services to the benefit of society such as the arts, education or sport.
There is a considerable illegal market for on-line gambling services in the EU. It is estimated that for each licensed on-line gambling website worldwide, there are more than five websites offering on-line poker or sports betting without having a licence. An illegal cross-border market is currently accessible to consumers, due either to de facto tolerance or because of a lack of effective enforcement. That is why the consultation seeks to evaluate current enforcement systems and cross-border cooperation between Member States and gather factual information on the efficiency of the existing blocking systems (such as payment blocking or domain name filtering).
What are the next steps?
Responses to the Green Paper are welcome until 31 July 2011. The information and data received at the end of this process will be thoroughly assessed by the Commission in determining follow-up action.
Today on-line gambling services are widely offered and used in the EU and the economic significance of the sector is growing. In 2008, on-line gambling services accounted for annual revenues over € 6 billion, or 7.5% of the overall gambling market. It is the fastest growing segment of the gambling market and in 2008 was expected to double in size in five years.
At the same time, the regulatory situation for gambling differs between Member States. While some Member States restrict or even ban the offer of certain games of chance, others have more open regulated markets. A number of Member States have also recently reviewed their on-line gambling legislation or are embarking on such a process.
A staff working document accompanying this Green paper is available on the Commission's website:
Interested parties will find further instructions on how to respond to this consultation on the website mentioned above.