Editorial: EU gambling legislation update


European gamblers know that despite the unitive efforts of the EU a lot can change from one country to the next. While some countries EUstrive to increase gambling opportunities, others are systematically blocking them. If you're a European gambler that's wondering where it's safe to get your fix, a tourist that's looking for a good place to play while you're away from home, or just a curious GP reader, we've got the scoop on what's going down with gambling legislation inside the EU.

Poland Also Against Gambling Sponsorships

Polish politicians recently passed several new laws that greatly restrict gambling in their country, but it turns out their concerns go farther than their own gambling halls. Politicians are now targeting gambling-affiliated sports sponsors like the many online casinos that have traditionally backed the country's football teams. Recent reports estimate that these sponsorships are worth more than $18 million. With the current world recession, football fans worry that a crackdown on gambling-related sponsorships could seriously affect the competitiveness of Polish sports teams participating in European leagues.

Feasibility of France's Online Gambling Legislation in Question

As we reported last month, France has introduced a whole slew of new gambling legislation. While the primary purpose of the laws is to simultaneously legalize and regulate online gambling, the laws in their current form would make it extremely difficult for new operators to get a license from the country. In light of these difficulties as well as public outcry over perceived favoritism toward existing French sites, the French government has been slow to impose the new legislation. At a recent conference in France, several involved politicians and concerned industry insiders questioned the country's current ability to enforce the proposed laws. The general consensus is that the country still lacks the know-how and the technical resources necessary to impose the new regulations.

Belgium Ignores EU Ruling

Last week, Belgium's legislators passed a series of online gambling laws similar to the ones proposed in France, but Belgium's new laws took their patriotic bias one step further by violating several terms of a recent EU treaty. The European Commission advised against the passage of these new laws, but Belgium ignored their recommended changes and adopted the laws as-is. Not only do the new laws openly favor Belgium-based online casinos, but they prohibit citizens from playing at outside sites that have already been approved by the EU.

Is there a common link between the restrictive legislation imposed by Poland, France and Belgium? Some sources have suggested that these countries are testing the new Commissioner who is due to take office in only two months. Other industry insiders believe that the free market legislation encouraged by the EU will make it hard for new countries to compete with governments that have already established an online presence, like the members of the United Kingdom. Only time will tell if the EU prevails over these dissenting countries; in Poland and France public outcry may inspire retroactive legislation before the EU even deigns to get involved.