Ambitions to Harmonize

26 January 2004

A new organization of European online sports betting companies is forming with the goals of promoting equal rights in the industry by offering its voice to the European regulatory authorities who are beginning the process of forming a single set of rules to govern I-gaming across all the European states.

The European Betting Association (EBA), a non-governmental, non-profit organization, was established Dec. 15, 2003 by its four charter members: Interactive Entertainment of Austria, of Malta, Unibet of England and Globet International Sports Betting of England. Two other companies have already committed to join, although they have not officially become members yet.

Torbjorn Ihre, the EBA's lobbyist responsible for all external affairs, says the organization intends to bring on at least 10 members. The group will also develop a code of conduct and ethical norms for its members to follow.

The EBA's primary objective is to work toward obtaining a free competitive betting market in Europe that is devoid of cross-border restrictions and government monopolies. Focusing on the recently proposed Service Directive, the EBA hopes to obtain its goal by lobbying the European Commission, Parliament and Council.

The EC treaty sought to create an open market with a free movement of services across borders, thereby providing more competition and better products and prices for consumers. Interactive gambling services, however, were excluded from the European Union's e-Commerce Directive and as a result, betting services have not enjoyed the same cross-border freedom that most other industries have. State-licensed gambling monopolies have been protected by national laws aimed at limiting gambling and maintaining social order.

The EBA argues that the monopoly operations are commercialized and should therefore be subject to competition like most other industries within the European Union. According to the EBA's position paper, "The competitive services should be based on the principle that an operator with a license in one country can provide, without obstacles, the same service offerings to customers in all countries within the EU."

In its proposed Services Directive, the European Commission has sought to strengthen the cross-border provision of services by giving member states the duty of defending their restrictions.

But while the Services Directive does not lay out any regulation for cross-border gambling services, it does ask that rules to govern the I-gaming services industry be established by 2010.

In the spring of 2004, the commission will begin a study on what sort of new legislation could harmonize I-gaming within the EU. The EBA intends to serve as a knowledgeable advisor to the commission in researching the industry and developing new rules for it.

Bradley Vallerius

Articles by Bradley P. Vallerius, JD manages For the Bettor Good, a comprehensive resource for information related to Internet gaming policy in the U.S. federal and state governments. For the Bettor Good provides official government documents, jurisdiction updates, policy analysis, and many other helpful research materials. Bradley has been researching and writing about the business and law of internet gaming since 2003. His work has covered all aspects of the industry, including technology, finance, advertising, taxation, poker, betting exchanges, and laws and regulations around the world.

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