Right2Bet makes its GPWA debut

22 April 2010
We're delighted to have the opportunity to start blogging for the GPWA and APCW. The organization has been a fine supporter of right2bet virtually since inception, with the two of us united in the belief that those who want to gamble safely and securely online, should be able to do so freely, be they in Europe or the US.

At right2bet, we're campaigning for the right of all EU citizens to be able to bet with whichever licensed and legal European operator they choose. Currently, in several Member States, politicians are fighting tooth and nail to protect the state gambling monopolies, and in turn, consumers are losing out in terms of value, product choice and customer care.

To make matters worse, the EU Commission, the body tasked with ensuring that the fundamental principles of the EU (in this case freedom to offer services) are adopted across the continent are letting the perpetrators get away with it, be it through sheer misunderstanding of the issue, or via the long-winded and often inconclusive bureaucratic process.

In our opinion the Commission needs to do far more in terms of enforcing the law in those Member States determined to flout it.

We'll be using our new weekly slot here to give you our take on any regulatory or legislative developments occurring in the European online gambling sphere.

One such development which has caught our attention recently has been in France, which has highlighted the inconsistent, hypocritical and uncompetitive state of the country's gambling market.

The French have operated a monopolist regime for years, banning competitors and forcing their consumers to use the FDJ, the state operator which offers less choice and inferior odds than the prohibited competition.

Finally, due to pressure from the Commission, the French realized they needed to amend their approach, and last week their National Assembly passed a new online gambling bill which their authorities are claiming opens up their market to the competition and means they can no longer be accused of protectionist practices.

Not quite. For the problem with the French bill is that it is laden with rules and regulations that in reality make things extremely difficult for foreign competitors to enter the market successfully. High taxes, limitations on the products one can offer plus strict rules on a company's setup and operations are in essence barriers to entry that will in many cases prove too steep for competitors to even attempt to surmount.

What this means is that the positions of the FDJ is strengthened, since on one hand the new legislation entitles them to advertise more and offer more services, while at the same time it dissuades the competition from posing a challenge. And the Piece de Resistance? The change appears under an umbrella of 'legislative progression' which the French hope will get the likes of us, and the Commission, off their back.

In many respects it's a cunning ploy, however we're determined not to let it work. We're urging the Commission to take a long hard look at the new French legislation, and we're hopeful they'll reach the conclusion that it places unnecessary restrictions on the European competition.

Worryingly, we expect the French model for 'liberalization' to be adopted by other member states being forced to open their markets up, which is why it is vital that the Commission clamp down on bills such as this from the off.

We'll be doing all we can to ensure it is opposed, and we hope that the likes of the GPWA and APCW communities will help our cause by signing our petition at right2bet.net and involving themselves in the campaign.

Ari Last

Ari writes and reports about European gambling issues for Right2Bet, an organization dedicated to allowing EU citizens to be able to bet with whichever EU-licensed betting company they wish, regardless of in which member state that company is based.