Exclusive interview.- Maarten Haijer, Secretary General at the European Gaming and Betting Association, speaks to Focus about the future of gaming in Europe.
Online gaming has done well in Europe during the Covid-19 pandemic, and 2021 promises to be another important year with perhaps the last new igaming markets in Europe opening up in The Netherlands and Germany.
Maarten Haijer, secretary general at the European Gaming and Betting Association, joined Focus Gaming News to discuss what the market has in store this year.
“Irrespective of Covid, I think there will be continued growth of the online sector.”Maarten Haijer, secretary general of the European Gaming and Betting Association
There’s still room for growth, Haijer believes, noting the discrepancy between the different member states in the EU in terms of the percentages of online gambling versus offline gambling.
“It’s very noticeable that all the big markets are relatively low in online gambling share,” he says, “so there is continued growth and if you look at those figures there will be more growth in online gambling in Europe in years to come.”
New European igaming markets
He noted, however, that operators’ approaches to Europe’s last licensed igaming markets have been different compared to the rush of interest a decade ago when a market like France opened up.
“Now you can see a more cautious approach from operators when a market opens up,” he says, observing that operators were taking more care in analysing whether the German and Dutch licensed igaming markets would be sustainable.
“Germany has a real issue where you might even see the number of operators applying for a licence being very limited because the new taxation on casinos is extremely high,” he notes.
“Regulations, requirements and taxation make both Germany and the Netherlands opportunities, but I wonder how many people will go for it to be honest.”
While Haijer is confident igaming will continue to grow in Europe despite tightening regulations, he is concerned about regulators’ approaches to channelisation.
“What for me is worrying is that legislators and regulators are aware that there will be low channelisation rates but they don’t seem to mind,” he says.
“They more or less accept that quite a lot of people will continue to play on the black market and I’m doubtful whether that’s a good basis for sustainable regulation to be honest.”
Learning from the UK experience
Haijer also said that European operators should learn from the experience of the igaming sector in the UK, and should not underestimate the role of the media.
“What’s notable in the UK is that the perception and acceptance of gambling has become much more critical in the last few years,” he says.
“The challenge for us outside of the UK is to avoid this highly critical debate by being communicative early on in the process.”
Haijer is convinced that the European igaming industry needs to do more to work towards a sustainable future and says he has been disappointed that operators are often not prepared to cover the costs of a monitoring system to promote industry responsibility.
“We need to be organised,” he says. “We need to show much more of ourselves. We need to communicate with the outside world. We should not forget that there’s a whole world outside of Europe – the US, Latin America – where there are a lot of developments as well.
“We want to make sure that the companies that are here also still pay attention to Europe and don’t just go to other parts of the world to make a profit and do business. In order to do that, we need to be much more visible and proactive.”