gamblingGambling is big business in Europe. The EU gambling market was estimated to be worth around €84.9 billion in 2011, with healthy annual growth rates of roughly 3%. With so many European countries desperate for economic growth, liberalising the gambling sector could be a source of much-needed public revenue to help fund hospitals, schools and other services.

Online gambling is by far the fastest-growing form of gambling, but it is also the one that poses the most ethical and practical challenges for legislators. Critics argue that the ease and convenience of online gambling makes it harder for addicts to resist. Yet how do you regulate online gambling within one country when people can log on to gambling websites from anywhere in the world?

In the Netherlands, the Dutch government has given up trying to ban online gambling. In 2011, the Dutch coalition government announced that a new gambling framework would be introduced in 2015, opening up the country’s online gambling market to licensed companies. More than 200 companies have already expressed an interest in a license, and the Dutch Parliament is expected to make a final decision before the summer.

Portugal has also decided to liberalise its online gambling market, abandoning its previous monopoly system and opening up its market to licensed companies. In Germany, however, online gambling is restricted to sports betting only, and the courts have seized winnings and fined people for taking part in “illicit online gambling”.

Should different EU countries should be able to decide for themselves what types of gambling they want to allow? To get a response, we spoke to Maarten Haijer, Secretary General of the European Gaming and Betting Association (EGBA).

Unsurprisingly, he supported a single European approach to regulating online gambling. However, if this was not possible then he believed Member States should choose between implementing a licensing system or a monopoly (in other words, they shouldn’t ban it outright).

For another perspective, we also spoke to Harrie Temmink, Deputy Head of Unit of ‘Public Interest Services’, DG Growth, at the European Commission. He argued that each Member State is entitled to decide whether they want to prohibit gambling, or allow it with either a licensing system or monopoly system. However, he warns that there is a black market for online gambling, meaning that an outright ban may not work in practice:

With the rise of online gambling, is it even possible for individual EU Member States to uphold gambling bans? Or will bans merely lead to a black market for online gambling? Should all EU Member States have the same gambling laws? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below, and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!

IMAGE CREDITS: CC / Flickr – Alan Cleaver

32 comments Post a commentcomment

What do YOU think?

  1. avatar

    “Pick a poison as long as the final say of it is yours and all those whom the question concerns.”

  2. avatar
    Oli Lau

    Why should any specific laws regulate this industry? No fraud -> no lies. If no lies then the player is totally responsible of his own act. Any European wide laws will again protect established industries.

  3. avatar
    Dimitris Athanasopoulos

    Any casino should ask fro the person’s income papers and give a limit to what they can gamble. In this way, not so many familes would be destroyed by this addiction

  4. avatar
    James McManama

    Regulating gambling at the EU level would essentially mean that countries like Germany, which have bans on most forms of online gambling, will be forced to drop their bans and open up their gambling markets. But it makes no sense to try and uphold a ban at the national level, because online gambling does not recognise borders.

  5. avatar

    “Gambling is big business in Europe”

    The way I see it … Gambling is a Big Money Laundry “business” in Europe. Governments get their shares, end everything work as planned. Addicts are just collateral victims. Point is, some governments are more greedy, corrupt and more jealous than others.

  6. avatar
    Ferenc Lázár

    Gambling ok, but what about VAT laws? Until some countries in E.U. have just 15 percent, others 25 percent tax on how you expect to be compatible?!

  7. avatar
    John Flerianos

    of course not. countries shouldn’t be able to vote. is this a democracy or something? the EU overlords should ban everything to protect us from our pathetic selves. Thank you, EU, for making sure I don’t harm myself with too much personal liberty

  8. avatar
    TJ Todorov

    In Bulgaria it was strictly prohibited to have TV commercials on gambling. From the last 4-5 years it was liberalized, under the EU “influence”. The same with the “energy legislation”. The impression is that the EU serves, but not to the EU citizens.

  9. avatar
    Loïc Diels

    Gambling really does not generate much revenue for member states on the whole but it certainly does destroy some peoples’ lives. Can’t really see the harm in banning it eu wide

    • avatar

      I seriously hope you didn’t think that the EU was meant to be democratic, because if you did, that would be called naive to the n-th degree.

      Reminder: the EU was designed to increase the distance between voter and legislation. To minimize the effects of elections.

  10. avatar
    EU reform- proactive

    NO & not taht simple!

    Comply, declare defeat & roll over to EU leaders? Respect, that some still want to decide their own moral compass! The promotion of all destructive activities such as gambling, drugs, prostitution & smuggling etc. feasts on greed and desperation & is an injury to the moral fabric and welfare of the whole European community.

    Today’s ‘NWO-politicians’ hit a wall, are morally bankrupt and glue less how to (honestly) grow the GDP, create jobs, borrow & budget within a county’s capacity. Who are these EU desperadoes’s wishing to grow a stagnant economy by promoting vice to create taxes & add its income to the GDP? Is that a good example?:

    One cannot liberalize all evil to avoid evil. Germany & others should be applauded by taking a stand against declared illegal gambling and chose instead to earn income through seizures & fines. Plan to avoid or promote a slide into a totalitarian Mafia state?

    We have enough ‘Wall streets’, banks and an oversupply of casinos, horses & financial tools to speculate and practice within an array of ‘legal gambling’- without the need to tax and add crime to our GDP- instead fighting it!

    As there is a need to avoid the pitfalls of mixing religion and politics- there is a need to advocate social justice (of a powerless but compassionate community) and the immorality of our political leaders (who are losing or lost their integrity to lead) to resort taxing vice and avarice to pay our bills and grow the GDP under false illusions and the promise to effortless riches.

  11. avatar

    The EU itself should come with the following warning: Danger, EU sidelines and bypasses democracy, decreases voter influence and makes elections increasingly meaningless.

  12. avatar

    Marcel. The EU does not nearly as often sidelines and bypass democracy as national states.

    Dont forget that we dont actually have democracy anywhere in the world. Switzerland is the MOST democratic country in the world most likely, and it is also not really a democracy. It is pretty close, and much closer than very anti-democratic countries like the Russia, US, France and the UK. Those are the least democratic countries north on this planet (north America, Europe, Russia).

    Countries in Scandinavia are the ones that are closest to Switzerland when it comes to being the closest to actually having a democracy, without actually having it, just proclaiming it (and repeating that).

  13. avatar

    I think EU may set the fundamentals and a framework for gambling legislation upon consent of the member countries. Subsequently members could adapt their own legislation and taxation rates in compliance with commonly agreed principles. In case of international conflict there should be always a basis for judgment. I do also think that lobbying and sharing in an EU level is a must when it comes to issues like online gaming which represent the future trend.
    As far as technology goes towards globalization, taxation should also go …following the business.

  14. avatar
    Jonathan Whiteley

    From legal point of view, is it illegal for a European (let’s say from Italy) to play, for example, on a russian gambling site? I’m kinda concerned, cause I’m moving there in a week, but I’m kinda hooked up on this one – and I don’t wanna stop playing. Any thoughts on the matter?
    P.S. a friend of mine said it’d be completely ok, but i’m not sure, so please confirm.

  15. avatar

    From small pegs games, entirely up-to maximum of high-roller games;
    you will believe it is many below.

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