EGBA urges Brussels to protect European citizens

EGBA sent a message to the European Commission warning them that cross-border online betting is “hamstrung by a patchwork of national rules.”

Belgium.- The European Gaming and Betting Association (EGBA) sent a message to the new European Commission on Friday. The association explained that cross-border online betting is “hamstrung by a patchwork of national rules” and urged Brussels to bring Europe together.

Recent news about social media companies and their use of consumer data have made the headlines recently, EGBA said. “The news made many people, including EU policymakers, stop and think about how the rights and interests of Europe’s citizens could be better protected in an increasingly online world. In truth, much of this is the result of regulations struggling to keep pace with the internet’s rapid, cross-border, and technological development.”

EGBA said that there is no doubt that the technological step-change has raised questions about where the rights of consumers, the interests of online businesses, and good regulation can intersect harmoniously. “Today more than 12 million Europeans regularly bet online, conducting nearly 1 million financial transactions to and from our member companies each day. We are, some would say, “a big sector.” And with 20% of Europe’s betting now online, we know only too well the challenges of reconciling rapid technological change with consumer protection and effective regulation,” explains Maarten Haijer, Secretary-general, European Gaming and Betting Association (EGBA).

“While some EU regulation, such as the GDPR and the Anti-Money Laundering Directive, do provide some regulatory basis, the betting sector is regulated entirely by national policies. Each EU state has its own set of rules and requirements. They work in isolation from each other and without regard to the internet’s cross-border nature. The consequence: 28 very different sets of regulations and 28 different sets of customer experience.

“In an era where people can easily place a bet on websites based in other countries, the lack of policy consistency is problematic. It means people can easily be exposed to websites that don’t fully protect their rights or interests. The European Commission recognised this problem in 2014 and outlined a list of safeguards that countries should adopt to ensure Europeans experience a more consistent and higher level of consumer protection in online betting.”

“One such measure: every state should create a national self-exclusion register to allow people who bet too much or too often — as can be the case in an entertainment sector like ours — to exclude themselves from being able to access betting websites. The Commission committed to review implementation by January 2017, but recently acknowledged it has deprioritised the gambling dossier and will not spend money on measuring the effectiveness of its own online betting proposals.”

Only 14 EU countries have adopted a national self-exclusion register, and only 13 require “no underage betting” signs on advertisements. EGBA claims that the Commission has disbanded a national expert group it facilitated. The group, made up of national betting regulators, was considered a great success and a valuable platform for exchanging best practices and information between countries.

“There is now no formal framework for betting regulators to jointly tackle the big issues affecting the sector, many of which are cross-border in nature and require common solutions… In the online betting sector, formal regulatory cooperation is a necessary first step, followed by standardisation and more common rules.”

“Greater regulatory cooperation and better enforcement of existing EU initiatives and laws will go some way toward achieving this. Making the single market work better for those citizens who bet online will require even higher standards than those applied to other online sectors. But leaving it up to EU countries alone has not worked, so the incoming European commission needs to act,” he concluded.

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