Michel Barnier, the current European Commissioner for Internal Market and Services, published an op-ed article in Times of Malta on Tuesday.
The article, entitled “Make Online Gambling Safe,” covered the present regulatory issues for online gambling in Europe. The Old Continent is considered to be the largest and fastest growing market. The revenues are expected to exceed EUR 13 billion by 2015.
The expert on internet gambling argued:”As the EU Commissioner in charge of online services, I believe that the size and special nature of this market means that its regulation and supervision must be effective and go hand in hand with societal considerations, to protect consumers and avoid fraud and match-fixing in sports.”
The Commissioner added: “Due to the fast development of technology, online gambling is now available not only on computers but also via mobile phones and TVs: around 15,000 sites are accessible in Europe. But over 85 per cent of these are unlicensed, bringing with them the dangers of fraud, money laundering and gambling-related disorders such as addiction.”
Barnier expressed his hopes for a unified European policy for online gambling. The legal expert emphasized that national governments alone cannot protect their citizens from the risks of unregulated online gambling. The Commissioner also added that individual member states cannot successfully apply anti-fraud mechanisms.
He noted: “We have seen the negative consequences of poorly regulated markets before and do not want to see this happen again in the area of online gambling.”
Barnier added: “A comprehensive European framework for online gambling should contribute to making authorized gambling opportunities more easily identifiable and more attractive, thereby dissuading consumers from using unregulated offers.”
The French politician also mentioned the importance of keeping the integrity of European sports after all the match-fixing scandals in the recent past. He named cooperation between nations to be an issue of key importance in this field.
However, the Commissioner did not suggest a common EU-wide law regulating internet gambling activities, but instead proposed “a comprehensive set of actions and common principles of protection.”
Barnier also called for the development of better age-verification tools and online content filters. He argued that gambling advertising must be more responsible and has to feature increased awareness of gaming associated dangers.