With the up-coming European Parliament elections looming, gambling fans hope that the services they currently enjoy won’t be reduced with legislation changes.
In May 2014, all member states of the European Union will hold elections to the European Parliament. This will be the eighth Europe-wide election, since the first election was held in 1979.
Legal gambling is enjoyed throughout the EU, and further growth specifically in the online sector is expected in coming years. Gambling news outlets are eager to learn if the elections will have any affect on the existing regulatory framework presently in place regarding online gambling in EU member states; which for the past two years has been subject to development.
This article takes a look at what the elections could mean for the online side of the industry, if anything.
Gambling across Europe
So, before we get into the excitement of legislation and rules, let’s quickly run through European Union gambling market as it stands.
The overall annual revenues for all forms of gambling across the EU were estimated at around €84.9 billion in the year 2011. For online gambling specifically, the value was around €9.3 billion, which represents about 10% of the whole market; this figure is estimated to grow at around a rate of 15% and is expected to reach an impressive €13 billion in 2015, which would make up 14.2% of the projected total market.
European Union Facts
• Began in the mid 50’s
• Contains 28 member states
• Was awarded the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize
• Member states have varying gambling laws
Although current technology is good across the EU countries, it continues to improve. Diverse channels like the internet, mobile phone technology and digital TV will become further developed and presumably attract more gambling fans to use services provided via them.
According to the European Commission, consumers in Europe often search beyond national borders for online gambling services and can be exposed to prevailing risks such as fraud.
Online gambling in Spain was regulated by the Spanish authorities; in Italy, by the Italians. This was the way that European gambling law operated; although there was an overall EU act, each member state was in control of legislation in their country. This was not an ideal system as some countries were granted greater gambling freedoms than others. For example, if you were in France you couldn’t legally play online casino games with a French operator, but strangely you could use a British one, legally.
However, since mid-2012, the European Commission has been critically looking at the online gambling rule-book. The EC concluded that they identified problem areas, in addition to the troubles of confusion over the variations throughout policy of the EU.
Specifically, they raised concerns over the possibility of fraudulent websites operating, vulnerable groups being subject to gambling advertising on the internet, and the possibility of money laundering through gambling websites. The Commission advised concerns should be resolved to fully ensure clarity and safety of consumers.
After two years of fierce debate on the matter, the Commission proposed a solution in March of 2014. Following an overwhelming majority parliament vote, support has been given to a single set of rules to be applied across all member states in a bid to address these areas in a uniform fashion. Allowing online gambling operators to offer their services across all Member States, the revised rules will bring greater legal security and consistency to the EU regulated industry.
The driving force behind the agreement is to enforce EU-wide rules to prevent money laundering from online gambling services. This seemed to be of serious concerns to most member representatives.
The revised rules were first presented by the European Commission in February 2013, and were intensely debated by two parliamentary committees until early this year. As the Council and the European Parliament need to agree on the proposed revised rules, negotiations will resume after the European Parliament elections in May.
The decision is welcomed by fans of online gambling and the increasingly popular world of mobile betting. Fans generally will remain pleased as long as parliament sticks to what’s been discussed thus far. The adoption of the new rules will allow operators to access wider market areas – the whole of the European Union – and should bring more customers and money to their sites.
So, unless there are further proposed changes after the election, the future of online gambling looks more promising for those wishing to gamble, or provide gambling services within the EU. Based on the recent majority voting, it appears as if all plans will go-ahead and the election shouldn’t affect players’ capabilities; which are set to increase shortly.
The move will open up foreign sites to residents anywhere in the EU, giving players increased choices and the freedom to access potentially better or more competitive services.