European Commission Expresses Concern Over National Gaming Laws
The European Commission expressed its concerns last week regarding some of its members' online gaming legislation, which require that licensed operators maintain a physical presence in the country.
In the summer, Maltese politician and European Parliament Member David Casa questioned the EU Commission — in a topic titled Remote Gaming Licenses and Its Compatibility with the Fundamental Freedoms on the European Parliament website — as to whether there were compatibility issues between requiring online gaming companies to maintain a presence in a member country with fundamental freedoms.
Can the Commission comment on the compatibility of this provision with the fundamental freedoms?
"In a particular national gambling law that has been notified to the Commission it is being suggested that a remote gaming license may only be provided to operators that have a land-based presence or intend to do so within a particular time-frame following the obtaining of such license," stated Casa. "Can the Commission comment on the compatibility of this provision with the fundamental freedoms?"
EU Internal Market Commissioner Eliżbieta Bieńkowska expressed the Commission's concern in a response on Sept. 3 about national online gaming legislation in certain member countries requiring that operators maintain a physical presence in the country.
"Without prejudice to a specific assessment of any particular notified draft law, the Commission has concerns about the compatibility of national provisions subjecting the provision of online gambling services to establishing a physical presence in the recipient Member State and has been pursuing investigations into similar provisions to that described by the Honorable Member," answered Bieńkowska to Casa's public question.
Bieńkowska further cited case law from the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU) that there are exceptions if a member country can prove that the rules are nondiscriminatory and are needed due to an over-riding public concern.
"According to well-developed case-law of the Court of Justice of the EU, Member States may restrict the provision of gambling services within their territory," Bieńkowska stated. "However, the restrictions must be compatible with the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU. In particular, they must be non-discriminatory with respect to nationality and justified by overriding reasons in the public interest."
If action is taken on these concerns, it could theoretically affect the legality of any country's legislation whose gaming laws demand a physical presence to be maintained by gaming operators, most notably Spain, Italy, and France.