Brussels, 20 November 2013
Commission requests Member States to comply with EU law when regulating gambling services
Today, the European Commission has called on a number of Member States to ensure compliance of their national regulatory frameworks for gambling services with the fundamental freedoms of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU. Member States are in principle free to set the objectives of their policies on online gambling. They may restrict or limit the cross-border supply of all or certain types of gambling services on the basis of public interest objectives such as consumer protection or the prevention of fraud and other criminal activities. However, national gambling systems must respect EU law.
Member States must demonstrate the suitability and necessity of the measure in question, in particular the existence of a problem linked to the public interest objective at stake and the consistency of the regulatory system. Member States must also demonstrate that the public interest objectives are being pursued in a consistent and systematic manner. They must not undertake, facilitate or tolerate measures that would run counter to the achievement of these objectives.
In its Communication “Towards a comprehensive European framework on online gambling”, adopted on 23 October 2012 (see IP/12/1135), the Commission announced that it would accelerate completion of its assessment of national provisions in the pending infringements cases and complaints and take enforcement action wherever necessary. After consultation of the Member States concerned, decisions on a first series of pending cases have now been taken. Concretely, the Commission has today:
The Commission has also closed investigations and proceedings against several Member States which had not reached the stage of a formal infringement proceeding. Proceedings against other Member States remain open – either because the national rules in question are still under investigation or in the process of being substantially amended.
Swedish rules for the establishment of an exclusive right for the offering of gambling services do not comply with EU internal market rules
In two separate proceedings the European Commission has requested Sweden to ensure compliance of its national rules establishing exclusive rights for the provision of online betting services and for the provision of online poker services with EU law. In previous requests the Commission had sought to verify whether the restrictions in question are compatible with Article 56 TFEU, which guarantees the free movement of services. The Commission found that the restrictive policy in the area of gambling services is not applied in a systematic and consistent manner and that the holder of the exclusive right is not subject to strict state control. The Commission enquiries cover the cross-border provision of online sports betting and poker services, but also deal with issues such as advertising and sponsorship. The Commission requests Sweden, in the form of an additional reasoned opinion on online betting and a reasoned opinion on online poker services, to take action to fully comply with EU rules.
Concerning restrictions to the provision of online betting services the Commission had already issued a reasoned opinion in 2007 (IP/07/909). However, in view of the time that had elapsed, developments in Sweden and in the case-law of the Court of Justice of the European Union in the area of gambling services in the intervening period, the Commission has deemed it useful to clarify the basis for its argumentation and to allow the Member State concerned to respond to these new developments.
If Sweden fails to act within two months in relation to these two proceedings, the Commission may refer these cases to the EU Court of Justice.
Commission confirms compliance of Finnish gambling law with EU rules
The European Commission has concluded that the Finnish legislation establishing an exclusive right for the offering of gambling services complies with EU law and is applied in a consistent and systematic manner.
The Commission launched infringement proceedings against Finland in 2006 (IP/06/436). These proceedings concerned the cross border provision and marketing of sports betting services. The Commission considered that the Finnish law at the time did not serve to achieve the public interest objectives invoked in a consistent and systematic manner. This process culminated in the adoption of an amended national framework law on gambling which entered into force on 1 January 2012.
The revised Finnish Lotteries Act and related implementing measures establish a statutory gambling monopoly, tighten the rules on the operation of games and the promotion of gambling services and establish revised rules and means for supervision and enforcement of gambling offers and rules. They provide the necessary structure to ensure that the activity of the monopoly is limited to a policy of controlled expansion in the betting and gaming sector, aiming to channel the propensity to gamble into controlled activities, and does not incite and encourage consumers to participate in games of chance – in terms of the supply and marketing of gambling services. The responsible Finnish authorities have been provided with the means to effectively supervise the activities of the gambling monopoly and to enforce the national gambling rules. The Finnish Government furthermore provided substantive information and evidence on the implementation and application of the amended rules and a first evaluation of their impact.
The Commission therefore concluded that the revised law constitutes a consistent and systematic pursuit of the objective sought by the establishment of a gambling monopoly in a Member State and corresponds to the requirements set by the Court for this establishment. The Finnish authorities have sufficiently demonstrated that the revised law and its implementation and application comply with these requirements. The Commission has therefore closed the legal case against Finland.
Commission enquires into the licensing procedure and conditions for the provision of online gambling services in Belgium, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Lithuania, Poland and Romania
The European Commission has decided to send letters of formal notice to Belgium, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Lithuania, Poland and Romania, requesting information on provisions in their national legislation which restrict the supply of certain gambling services. In these cases the Commission wishes to verify whether the measures in question are compatible with Article 56 TFEU, which guarantees the free movement of services, and has asked a number of questions in relation to the licensing procedure and conditions for the provision of gambling services.
The Commission has concerns about the compatibility of national provisions subjecting the provision of online gambling services to establishing a physical presence in the recipient Member State, prescribing a specific legal form on the basis of national law, requesting prior consent of the authorities in relation to any changes in the shareholder structure or banning foreign capital with EU law.
Concerning Belgium the Commission has also raised questions about the transparency of the Belgian legal framework for gambling, in particular with regard to the rules governing the legal conduct of online gambling business and in view of the grant of a betting licence through Royal Decree to the National Lottery.
With regard to the Romanian legal framework for gambling the Commission has asked further questions on the coherence of the national gambling policy.
To Cyprus the Commission has submitted additional questions concerning the scope of the Cypriot Gambling Law with regard to different operators authorised to offer their services in the Member State. The Commission has concerns about the equal treatment of gambling service providers.
On the November infringement package decisions, see MEMO/13/1005
On the general infringement procedure, see MEMO/12/12