EU Services Directive Vote - the Winner: European Lotteries

16 February 2006

The European Parliament finally voted in Strasbourg today on the so called Services Directive in which basic EU values were at stake, such as the internal market en cross border services and labor. MEPs voted on 404 amendments to the Services Directive--a number that had dropped from 1,500.

It was known that Internet gambling would not be a part of the directive; the "country of origin" principle is also no longer included. For the I-gaming industry, this is a very negative development.

The European Lotteries (EL) applauded the decision keep gambling excluded.

"I am very pleased that lotteries and sports betting have such broad support among members of the European Parliament," EL President Winfried Wortmann said. "In addition to the sensitivity and specificity of the gambling sector, members of the European Parliament also understand the key role lotteries play all over Europe as important contributors to several sectors in civil society such as health care, environment, nature, heritage, culture, sports, welfare, humanitarian aid, education and research. Lotteries donate the money that would otherwise have been economically 'lost' and distribute the profit to organizations that work at improving our European society."

EL hopes that the revised commission proposal on the Services Directive, which is due in the coming months, will take into account this clear signal from the European Parliament and exclude gambling entirely from the scope of the Services Directive.

EUROMAT (the European Gaming and Amusement Association) also welcomed the outcome of today's vote.

One man's meat, however, is another man's poison. The European Betting Association (EBA) and the Remote Gambling Association (RGA) stated in a joint response that Parliament "has missed an important opportunity to promote the adoption of fair and sustainable rules for the EU gambling market."

According to the press information from the two groups, "It is now time for the commission to act."

But now is a little late. Tens of thousands of union members have protested during the last couple of days in Brussels, and the unions got what they wanted. Lobbying efforts from the collective Internet gambling industry, on the other hand, were ineffective, as its seems that this cash rich and creative industry could not come up with a strategic plan to influence the MEPs, its unions and the players.

The winners are the monopolists of the European Lotteries, under the command of Tjeerd Veenstra, who was responsible for a successful and well organized approach.

In a couple of months, the commission will present its plans for the Internet gambling industry. In the meantime, the court cases and infringements will continue as if there was no vote today.

Coming up: an extensive interview with Tjeerd Veenstra, who discusses the inner workings of his successful campaign.

Rob van der Gaast has a background in sports journalism. He worked for over seven years as the head of sports for Dutch National Radio and has developed new concepts for the TV and the gambling industry. Now he operates from Istanbul as an independent gambling research analyst. He specializes in European gambling matters and in privatizations of gambling operators. Rob has contributed to IGN since Jul 09, 2001.