“At a local level, biggest challenge is deciding whether to introduce national licensing regimes for online gambling”
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Clive Hawkswood, RGA CEO.
What challenges do EU Member States have to face regarding online gambling?
At a local level the biggest challenge is deciding whether to introduce national licensing regimes for online Gambling. Once that has been done they have to establish regulatory and tax regimes which enable operators to run viable businesses and to compete in what is still an international market place. Within the EU they also have to satisfy the European Commission that any plans are compliant with EU law, although experience tells us that the Commission tends to adopt a flexible approach.
What is badly lacking at the moment is consistency between different states and any form of mutual acceptance of their respective licensing procedures.
Do you visualize an unique legislation for Member States in the short or medium term?
In respect of any harmonised legislation from the European Union, I would see very Little prospect of that in the short or médium turn. My expectation is that when the European Commission’s Green Paper communication is published later this year, it will focus much more on communication rather tan harmonisation.
The EC have recently announce that they will encourage administrative cooperation between national authorities in some areas. What is your position about this? How do you evaluate the work of the European Commissioner for the Internal Market and Services, Michel Barnier?
Improved co-operation is to be welcomed if it brings about sensible standards of consumer protection and a real sharing of best practice. However, it is still far to early to be sure about its true objectives. The commission is meant to act as guardian of the Treaties, but it has been slow to enforce EU law and many of the formal infringement proceedings against Member States have been outstanding for several years. Commissioner Barnier has recently stated that they will be looking at them again. This has given some cause for cautious optimism, but again we must wait to see what real difference it makes.
What Member States remain non-compliant with EU law?
We have no doubt that many of them are to differing degrees, but at present it is Belgium that is probably the most blatant.
What Member States are a role model to follow in online gaming?
None are perfect, but there are many more positives with countries like Denmark, Italy, Spain and the UK than there are in places like France and Belgium.
What are your expectations for the coming months?
Within the EU, the main focus will be the Commission’s Communication on online gambling later this year (probably towards the end of September) because that may set the agenda for debate at EU level for some time.