Shift in EU Commission Policy Regarding Protectionism has Operators on EdgePublished December 16, 2017 by Lee R
An EC announcement re-establishes its stance as first and foremost a policy organisation.
The EC is turning what many gaming industry experts are already calling a blind eye to protectionism among EU member states when it comes to iGaming regulation.
New Policy Cue
These perceptions come on the heels of notices sent last month by the EC to online gambling trade associations and related stakeholders advising of the EC’s plan to drop any and all infringement proceedings against protectionist EU online gambling market measures and shun all related future complaints.
EC disengagement was reaffirmed publicly last Thursday, when the EC asserted its new “political commitment to be more strategic in enforcing EU law,” which included de-prioritizing the organisation’s “infringement powers to promote an EU Single Market in the area of online gambling services.”
This implication of a new and somewhat unexpected laissez-faire attitude towards unifying EU regulation policy and procedures breaks rank with a precedent of recent decisions supporting the rights of all EU-licensed online gambling operators to access customers in other EU member states as well.
Countries Decide Policy
The EC ultimately left the issue in the hands of individual national courts, where the EC expressed organisational faith that gambling complaints “can be handled more efficiently by national courts.”
The EC is clearly attempting to provide an element of sovereignty to the new free market integration of iGaming taking place across Europe, which is far and away the most advanced and accepting iGaming region to date.
The P Word
What better topic to get on the fence for than protectionism, which is a hot potato term that not all countries are exemplifying in iGaming anyway. In fact, most are not.
The general concern regarding protectionism revolves around EU member states restricting outside access to their gambling markets, with EU courts historically upholding the majority of complaints brought by online operators against numerous member states accusing market regulators of shielding state-run or private domestic operators from international competition.
Adaptivity of Member States
Now, the EU is backing off from this supporting stance, throwing their support behind member states in organisational “efforts to modernize” online gambling marketplaces.
Industry-funded trade associations such as the Remote Gambling Association (RGA) and the European Gaming & Betting Association (EGBA) understandably and somewhat predictably expressed dismay with the new EC tact, with EGBA secretary general Maarten Haijer going so far as to call the decision “a baffling lack of understanding of the digital consumer” while suggesting that the EC is not “taking its role as guardian of the treaties seriously.”
Source of Resentment
The sentiment of the positions expressed are far more traceable to the interest groups behind the organisations than specific philosophical positions or organisational policy per se, so clearly the protectionism card was serving to some extent as an ace in the hole when EU-licensed operators sought to face other European markets with the same license.
Incoming: Compliance Procedures
All told, the whole issue for operators and trade associations alike may just be a pain in the paperwork, an inconvenient truth whose inconvenience still clearly outweighs situational propriety for operators in a trade environment where the EC is more effective as a referee than in trying to impose its will upon sovereign and autonomous member states.