On November 14, the European Parliament approved a non-legislative resolution on online gambling, which had been voted by the Internal Market Committee on October.
The resolution constitutes an important step at the end of a process that started with the publication of the European Commission Green Paper on online gambling on last March.
The resolution confirms the twofold approach of the EU with regard to the regulation of online gambling: whilst the implementation of a legal framework is excluded from the objectives of the EU, the strengthening of the cooperation between Member States is seen as a crucial issue in this respect. Thus, “subsidiarity plus coordination” are the keywords of this strategy.
Although many operators wished a common regulation binding for all countries within the EU, especially in order to limit costs connected to regulatory asymmetries and create a unique market without barriers, online gambling companies praised the resolution. In fact, it aims at establishing a minimum common ground, by requiring Member States to comply with the EU law (being more transparent and avoiding discrimination) and removing requirements as well as redundant controls that may discourage foreign operators, in order to make domestic markets as open as possible and promote competition. In the light of the above, a licensing model could be introduced to ensure that all the operators meet the requirements established under the EU law.
Two other essential objectives are set out in the resolution: control over operators and protection of minors.
As to the first objective, attention has to be drawn, according to the Parliament, to illegal providers. Among the others, the actions suggested include the creation of a blacklist that is supposed to be shared between Member States. This way, a common means of control would be implemented.
Additionally, another solution that may be considered consists in a legally binding instrument (still to be shaped) allowing authorities to require banks or company which issue credit cards involved in payment systems to block transactions with illegal providers (from and to). This way, Europe would follow the model of the U.S. Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act.
Secondly, the resolution focuses on protection of minors and prevention of addiction. In this respect, the EU is encouraged to set common standards that Member States and operators would have to implement and acknowledge accordingly. The enactment of a European gambling operators code of conduct may constitute a sound starting point.