Gambling regulators from 20 states in the European Economic Area (EEA) have signed a new agreement to tackle illegal cross-border online gambling through the exchange of information, in a move that the European Commission describes as the first of its kind in the world.
The cooperation between the European countries is described as being designed to help protect EU citizens and ensure the proliferation of well-regulated and responsible gambling throughout Europe.
Regulators have signed the agreement after the 2012 Commission communication, ‘Towards a comprehensive European framework for online gambling,’ identified cooperation between states as a priority. While the 20 signatories have not all been named, Dutch regulator the Kansspelautoriteit has confirmed that it is among the number.
The Commission estimates that there are more than 7m citizens in the European Union that gamble online.
“They can be at risk of addiction, and vulnerable to financial and identity fraud, or privacy breaches,” it says. “Gambling service providers can also be exploited for unlawful ends. Gambling can be a cover for money laundering, and betting-related manipulation of sports events can make money for criminal networks.”
As a result the European Commission, working with members of its Expert Group on Gambling Services, has contributed to work on an arrangement that establishes a framework for exchanging information, best practice and assistance.
The agreement covers a number of different areas, namely the organisation of gambling, such as tender processes, verification of information provided by other authorities and the exchange of technical expertise.
It will also cover the supervision of compliance with national laws, such as the protection of consumers, money laundering and fraud controls, as well as betting related to match-fixing.
Methods of practical cooperation to assist authorities in their day-to-day supervisory functions, and the sharing of best practices, are also set out in the agreement.
The agreement is accompanied by “fiches” on each participating country, providing information on the role and remit of national authorities, areas in which they would particularly like to share information, and other national authorities’ competences with regards to gambling, as well as limitations set out by countries’ laws.
While the cooperation agreement is a voluntary deal, meaning it is not underpinned by an EU legislative act, it has still been welcomed as a crucial step in building confidence and trust in the online gambling industry.
Industry body the European Gaming and Betting Association (EGBA) said that the information exchanged can cover a wide range of issues which allow member states to better and more efficiently achieve public policy objectives and reduce unnecessary administrative burden.
“The signing of the cooperation agreements between the EU’s Gambling Authorities is a crucial step in building trust and confidence in this inherently cross border sector,” EGBA secretary general Maarten Haijer said.
“We encourage the Authorities to address with priority unnecessary administrative costs that make the regulated offer less competitive than the unregulated offer.
“We would like to congratulate Commissioner Bienkowska and her team with today’s success and encourage the Commissioner to continue the implementation of the Commission Action Plan."
The agreement is expected to be further strengthened with ten gaming jurisdictions also expected to sign the agreement.