Online gaming, European Union
The Green Paper on the online gaming of the European Commission is still being completed, but meanwhile the European Parliament approved the report signed by the Deputy Jurgen Creutzmann that outlines the actions to be put into practice. With the approval of Michel Barnier, the Commissioner of the Internal market and the promoter of the consultations, who promises an action plan by next summer. This is not yet a closed chapter, but the result, partly at least, is already obtained. The online gaming as a true “stranger” for the international politics, has found for the first time a stage as important as that of the European Parliament, where it became a topical issue and an interesting international subject.
The evidence is the massive entry by the member states to the consulations promoted by Michel Barnier, the Commissioner of the Internal Market, with the creation of the Green Paper, dedicate to the subject. Altough the (hopefylly) concrete results will come only in the first half of 2012, with the final approval of the summary document, the Parliament during past days adopted the report drawn up by Jurgen Creutzmann, German member of the European Parliament, where he outlines the current background where the market of the online gaming is developping and the intents of the different states toward the subject, with also converging points of view (probably another novelty into Europe) as regards the way to take.
Altough the regulations ruling this activity change from a country to another, the intent shared through the Creutzmann report is to introduce a single licensing model to assure the safety of the players, in particular for the minors. So it was decided that, in order to obtain a steady and more transparent market, the Member States should introduce a single licensing model and the European Commission, for its part, should consider the idea to stop the economic transactions between the players and the websites offering this service in an irregular manner. At the same time, however, users should be protected limiting the access to the gaming sites in the web verifying the age and restricting the electronic payments, before starting to play. And about this specific point the Deputies call on the Commission to identify common standards for the operators or a directive.
The Parliament has essentially asked to the Commission to try to promote a closer European cooperation to fight illegal gaming and to protect consumers, but maintaining the subsidiarity, according to which the EU countries must be free to maintain its own rules. However, given the cross-border nature of this activity, should be important to coordinate an European approach for the prevention of the illegal gaming and for the protection of the minors and of the vulnerable people in general. And just this last point is the key element of the report. This approach has the approval of the Commissioner Barnier, who is satisfied of the wide participation to the consultations: “Eighteen months ago I promised to open wide consultations on the important subject of the online gaming – explained the Commissioner to the Parliament – and now I want to reaffirm the strong determination to realize these main deductions. From these consultations we received almost 250 feedbacks thanks to the five seminars of experts that we organized and with the very interesting discussion obtained with the Creutzmann report”. Every State is “free to decide its own opening principle of its own gaming market – added Bernier – but it is clear that we are going to a controlled European opening. Also, if there won’t be a legal offer in Europe, the players will continue to play on illegal websites of other countries with a lot of risks, such as laundering, and without any protection”. The Frenchman has clear ideas about the strategy to follow: immediately activate the confrontation between the national regolatory bodies that rule the various gaming markets in the member states to “lay the foundations for a real cooperation”, and get to the writing of “shared regulations”. Promising to get “right on work, wit the intention to propose, after a deliberation of the Board, a real action plan to be submitted to the Commssioners Board at the half of 2012”.
The reflections of the Commissioner confirm the strong will of action toward the online gaming. “The report has demonstrated a convergent vision. Nobody in a Member State can protect alone the consumers and the citizens, who must have an assured effective minimum regulation apart of the gaming platform”. Today the online gaming is a growing field that represents 14% of the gaming market of the Union, but Europe represents 45% of the online market of the world: “A growth that must be managed”, according to Barnier. But without too many (and useless) illusions: “We must be honest: the harmonization is not a priority of the road map to face these challenges and to asnwer to the questions” – but it is clear that Europe can “produce some common actions on some key aspects, in order to make a common base regulation”.
But in addiction to the safety and the consumer protection, the issue of the fight to the frauds remains, another target widely shared at the Parliament, with the general will to include the online gaming market in the enforcement of the Directive on money laundering that today concerns only the casinò field.