SERVICES: FUTURE GAMBLING POLICY UNCLEAR AS INFRINGEMENT CASES POSTPONED.
Hinting that no major moves will be made in the immediate term, the spokesman said "watch this space for the next one and a half or one year". He admitted "the Commission receives many complaints and many potential infringement procedures" on gambling but added "as far as I am aware this was not on any Commission agenda last week or the week before". However, the European Betting Association (EBA), which represents 14 European sports betting firms that operate mainly on the Internet, has said the cases were "ready to be adopted on July 13 and October 12". The cases concerned Denmark, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands and Sweden, the EBA said.
The EBA, which wants to scrap national restrictions that prevent its members from operating in various parts of the EU, accuses the Commission of being "extremely evasive about the timing" of the infringement cases. In a statement issued on October 14, the EBA "deplores the confusing attitude of the Commission which seems to postpone its decisions hiding behind other upcoming developments which have no impact on its duty". EBA Secretary-General Didier Dewyn added "as the weeks pass by, the Commission takes the risk to be seen as a watchdog of the interests of some national governments rather than as the guardian of the Treaty".
Meanwhile, the independence of the Swiss Institute of Comparative Law, which is conducting the study on the gambling sector, has been called into question. French MEP Jacques Toubon (EPP-ED) tabled a parliamentary question to the Commission recently, asking if it were true that the Institute subcontracted part of the study to a UK-based centre that was funded by British bookmakers. In his response on September 1, Mr McCreevy said he was satisfied there was no conflict of interest with either the contractor or the subcontractor.
In answer to a question from Luxembourg Socialist MEP Robert Goebbels, Mr McCreevy said on September 22 the study would help "to evaluate how the differing national laws regulating gambling services impact upon the smooth functioning of the Internal Market for these and associated (e.g. media, sports, charity, tourism) services and thus impact on the economic and employment growth associated with such services". The findings of the study would be unveiled at the end of 2005, he added.
Charities under threat?
One of the arguments used by those opposed to liberalising Europe's gambling industry is that charities might suffer due to the income of national lotteries potentially falling if they are forced to compete on an open market. However, John Whittaker, Managing Director of Stanleybet, one of the biggest private operators, has tried to discount this argument in a recent letter to Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, which Europe Information has seen. He said that state lotteries in countries with more open markets like the UK and Ireland give a bigger share of their profits to charity than lotteries in countries with more restricted markets like Sweden, Portugal and France. The Stanleybet boss pointed out that in Sweden, euro 109 million of lottery profit went to charities while euro 397 million was taken by the state in tax revenue.
Services Directive link.
In the proposed horizontal Directive to liberalise intra-EU trade in services, gambling is currently covered. However, the Directive's biggest innovation, the country-of-origin principle, under which service-providers are only bound by the laws of their home state, only applies if and when there is legislation on gambling at EU level. The EBA and the Remote Gambling Association (RGA) are urging the European Parliament to keep gambling in the Directive. But, according to EU sources, this is one issue where there may well be broad consensus to take gambling out entirely. The MEPs are due to adopt their first reading opinion in January 2006. The Commission tabled the draft Directive in January 2004.
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|Title Annotation:||European Betting Association|
|Date:||Oct 19, 2005|
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