A total of 17 trade associations representing leading online gambling operators in the EU have joined calls for the re-establishment of the EU Expert Group on Gambling Services.
Proclaiming the importance of “much-needed” regulatory cooperation between Europe’s gambling authorities, the organisations, including the European Gaming and Betting Association (EGBA) and Malta-based iGaming European Network (iGen), sent a letter to the commission laying out the need for the expert group.
The letter, which is publicly available online, states that it is “in the interest of both EU consumers and online gambling operators that there is a much better EU-level cooperation and information exchange between national gambling authorities”.
This cooperation, it insists, is necessary to tackle the problem of non-EU based gambling websites that target the EU market and its customers.
The organisations state that they represent companies operating in full compliance with both EU and national regulations, and emphasise their contribution to the EU economy in the form of taxes and levies.
This contribution is only going to increase, they say, as the industry expands. European online gambling revenue is expected to increase from €20.6 billion in 2020, to €44 billion by 2026.
The authors also argue that the drive for the re-establishment of the expert group is made even more pressing by the fact that members of the industry bodies are facing growing competition from gambling websites based outside of the EU, which do not pay taxes in the bloc and “certainly do not” have to comply with the strict gambling licensing and regulatory requirement in EU member states.
According to the groups, this not only affects member companies but is detrimental to any EU consumer playing on these websites, as they are not protected by EU regulations, such as those covering anti-money laundering and data protection.
“No more than 55 per cent of European online gambling spend was on websites licensed in European countries”, according to estimates cited in the letter.
Additionally, the fragmentation of the iGaming sector in the EU, the signatories state, contributes to higher compliance risks and suboptimal policy solutions, as “making national policy in isolation is less effective and efficient compared to the exchange of information and best practices”.
“A stronger, more joined-up regulatory environment supported by regular, formal, and structured regulatory cooperation would greatly increase the attractiveness of the regulated online gambling offer in EU member states, both in terms of providing effective consumer protection and a better consumer experience, compared to that of unregulated and dangerous black-market websites”.
The expert group, disbanded in 2018, after five years in existence, was a cross-border organisation tasked with establishing cooperation between Member States’ authorities and the EU Commission on matters relating to gambling services.
It was also tasked with advising and assisting the EU Commission in preparing and implementing gambling policy initiatives, monitoring the development of policies and emerging issues in the industry, and bringing out the exchange of experience and good practice.
The demise of the expert group was decried by iGaming stakeholders including the EGBA at the time, which acknowledged that it made “little progress” towards its goal of cross-border harmonisation of gambling rules, but insisted that it was a popular mechanism amongst regulators for fostering cooperation.
In mid-June, the issue was once again raised, as René Jansen, Executive Chairman of the Netherlands Gambling Authority and Chairman of the Gaming Regulators European Forum, wrote to European Commissioner Thierry Breton to request the reestablishment of the Group, on behalf of multiple European gambling authorities.
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