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Emily D. Swoboda
 

Monopoly-Friendly Report Adopted in EU Committee, Harmonization Gaining Traction as Alternative

27 February 2009

Dissenting opinions at the European Commission over the regulation of online gambling may lead to two separate votes next month in the European Parliament.

The commission's Committee on Internal Market and Consumer Protection, or IMCO, on Feb. 11 voted 32-10 to adopt a report on the integrity of online gambling, authored by Christel Schaldemose, a member of European Parliament from Denmark. The report, by some opinions, came out in favor of monopoly regulation of online gambling.

"In a nutshell what it's pointing towards is adequate protections and safeguards irrespective of whether the online gambling is being offered by private companies or monopolies," Clive Hawkswood, chief executive of the Remote Gambling Association, told IGamingNews Tuesday. "And of course it says that everyone must abide by E.U. rules, but they don't say whether the monopolies are doing that or not."

Ms. Schaldemose's report, which will be put to a full parliament vote in March, garnered a flurry of amendments, most of which were duplicates. Some requested the current regulatory system -- through which the individual member states continue to license gambling products -- be kept intact, while others called for the regulation of online gambling to be handled by the European Union.

Meanwhile, at the same meeting, Malcolm Harbour, member of European Parliament for Britain, submitted a minority opinion supported by eight MEPs from other countries. Mr. Harbour and his colleagues argue that the Schaldemose report is directed more toward member states' rights to regulate gaming as they see fit, whereas single market principles have not even entered the discussion. The minority opinion instead calls for a harmonization model that focuses on compliance with the EU Treaty.

A plenary vote on the IMCO report is scheduled for March 19. It is also understood that a number of MEPs are drafting an alternative resolution based on Mr. Harbour's minority opinion; it will need 40 signatures in Parliament to be placed on the March agenda.

Given the outcome of the IMCO resolution, Maarten Haijer, director of regulatory affairs for the European Betting and Gaming Association, feels that an alternative resolution would not likely get a majority vote. He added, however, that it would send "a strong political signal" that the European Parliament is divided on the issue.

"I think it's important to note that although it was a minority issue only supported by 10 members of European Parliament versus 32 votes in favor of the report, I'd say two years ago there certainly would not have been 10 members of European Parliament in favor of this minority opinion," Mr. Haijer explained. "So, the progress is remarkable from only a few years ago when it was voted out of the Services Directive."

Monopoly-Friendly Report Adopted in EU Committee, Harmonization Gaining Traction as Alternative is republished from iGamingNews.com.
Emily D. Swoboda
Emily D. Swoboda