By Martin Banks and Brian Johnson - 5th November 2008
What is urgently needed is clarification on competence on gambling issues between the EU and member states
Author of an own-initiative report on online gambling, Christel Schaldemose
Socialist MEP Christel Schaldemose has clashed with the European commission over who is responsible for regulating online gambling within the EU.
Speaking in parliament on Wednesday, the Danish MEP said that there is currently “great confusion” over whether responsibility lies with member states or the EU.
“What is urgently needed is clarification on competence on gambling issues between the EU and member states,” Schaldemose told the internal market committee as she outlined her draft own-initiative report on the integrity of online gambling.
The issue of jurisdiction in regulating gambling across the EU has become a contentious one. The European commission has no competence over gambling, which lies with individual member states.
However, with the growth of online gambling services across Europe’s borders, there have been numerous calls for Brussels to tackle the issue under the EU’s internal market remit.
But Jean Bergevin, head of unit for the commission’s internal market directorate, took issue with her comments, telling the committee, “The issue of competence is very clear – it lies with member states.”
Thursday 6 November marks the fifth anniversary of the landmark Gambelli ruling in the European court of justice. That decision enshrined the rights of EU gaming and betting operators operating in one member state to offer services across the EU’s borders.
However despite the judgement, many EU governments continue to restrict access to their national markets, forcing the European commission to initiate 10 infringement procedure cases in recent years.
Meanwhile, British EPP-ED deputy Malcolm Harbour will on Thursday sponsor a working breakfast to promote the launch of a new website, ‘fair play for sports betting’, dedicated to campaigning for an open market for sports gambling.
Schaldemose also told MEPs that her draft report outlined that some restrictions on online gambling “may be necessary for consumer protection”.
“There is a lot of concern about the rapid growth of the online gambling market,” she added.
Parliament’s political groups have until mid-December to table amendments to the report, which is expected to be adopted in plenary early next year.
Committee members generally welcomed the report but Portuguese Socialist deputy Joel Hasse-Ferreira warned that increased regulation of the industry within the EU would not necessarily be matched by similar action outside the EU.
MEPs also considered a study, commissioned by parliament, on online gambling.
The report said that underage gambling was a growing problem, although there was a “pressing” need for further studies on the issue.