Gambling in the EU: A long way from harmonised rules

Decisions on who can open and shut down a casino, a lottery or an online gambling site remain at national level, but there is a trend to more unified rules across EU’s 28 member states.

The gambling sector is a very profitable business, with revenues of over €80 billion a year.

Online gambling is the fastest rising sector with revenues expected to reach €13 billion next year, compared to €9.3 billion in 2011. Despite its cross-border nature, the licensing system and specific rules governing online gambling remain national.

Neither is the EU involved in specifically regulating the activity of casinos or lotteries. The only cases it can pursue and take governments to court for are breaches of the single market legislation by state-owned lotteries or other gambling outfits that abuse their dominant position.

Some members of the European Parliament and the umbrella association for the gambling industry – the European Gaming and Betting Association – have made the case for harmonised legislation across the EU, in order to increase transparency and revenues that are currently hindered by the fragmentation into 28 smaller national markets each with its peculiarities.

Jurgen Creutzmann, a German Liberal MEP who drafted one of the Parliament’s reports on online gambling, told this website that the move towards a more harmonised system is still far away.

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