Consumer protection, a European goal
S&D MEP Tiemo Wölken underlines the importance of minimum gaming standards in the EU, while respecting the principle of subsidiarity.
The principle of subsidiarity is applied to gaming with cash prizes in the EU. But this doesn’t mean that we can’t and should draw the line at EU level. The German MEP of the Socialists & Democrats Party, Tiemo Wölken thinks so, focusing his analysis and the subsequent proposal from a statement: “It is true that Member States decide for themselves how to regulate gambling. However, ever since gambling websites have emerged, the transnational element of online gambling has become apparent. The European Court of Justice has affirmed that online gambling is a service which enjoys free movement on the common market. Nevertheless, Member States remain free to set restrictions in the interest of consumer protection. The Commission has proposed some common standards, notably in terms of informing and supporting consumers. The national gambling authorities are also working closer together. But this is not enough: there are vast differences in the regulation of online gambling throughout the EU, with some Member States handing out licences relatively freely, others banning online gambling entirely. I would like to see a common frame of effective standards in consumer protection, especially with regards to preventing gambling addiction and reducing exposure to minors”.
In your opinion, would we need an action against online gaming, in particular the one without a license in member states?
“The situation is complicated, because the interplay between national licensing and the free movement of services means that a gambling company with a licence in one country can offer its services online to consumers in other countries. This can lead to a contradiction between national laws and the actual availability of online gambling in the common market, causing confusion to consumers and an unequal playing field for operators. This confusion is a frequent phenomenon when economic activities that were traditionally “offline” move to the internet and become equally accessible to users elsewhere, and we suddenly find that national laws and European laws don’t match as they used to. If we want to keep the single market open in the digital age, we need to find ways to solve these contradictions. Europe-wide minimum standards are a possible first step”.
In Italy there is a strong debate on the expediency to “confine” gaming offer in dedicated places. What do you think of it?
“I think every country should decide for themselves where to allow slot machines or games of chance. The question goes to show, however, that the same kind of activity may require different rules for the offline and the online dimensions. As a German consumer, I am unaffected by any laws regulating the legality of conducting games of chance in public in Italy. When those games of chance are offered on the Internet, however, it affects all consumers in the EU. The Internet is causing a tectonic shift in our conception of subsidiarity. If we do not complete the Digital Single Market soon, we might find more situations where this shift has caused different levels of legislation, even those that previously did not even affect each other, to become unaligned or at odds”.
We have had some cases of match-fixing recently too, how should the states of the European Union act to combat the phenomenon?
“Match fixing is a form of corruption and does nothing but ruin the positive experience of sports for fans, to the benefit of criminals. I think it is best fought in a concentrated effort between audiences, football associations, policymakers and not least the betting industry itself. The European Commission has set up an EU Expert Group on Match Fixing in 2014, tasked with identifying the state of play and the best practices in the combat against match fixing. I am very happy that the Commission has decided to continue this work and include an expert group on integrity in sport and match fixing in its 2017-2020 work plan on sport”.
WHO IS HE?! – Tiemo Wölken is a politician from northern Germany. Aged 32, he is the youngest MEP from the German Social Democratic Party. He has been active in local politics since 2003 in his home region and holds a LL.M. in International Law from the University of Hull, England. Since 2016, he is a lawyer in addition to being a Member of the European Parliament. Tiemo’s areas of expertise are environmental issues, healthcare, the budget of the European Union, and all things digital – from eHealth to tackling geoblocking. His YouTube channel (https://www.youtube.com/c/woelken) shows the daily work of European politics from a young perspective and clears up popular EU myths to over 26,000 subscribers.