Europe: with the ACTION PLAN we start from scratch

On 23 October the action plan was approved by the European Commission, c.d. "ACTION PLAN", which follows the Green Paper presented about a year ago, related to online gaming and more. The numbers of the sector are now too important to not have the attention of the European bodies. The number of active players for online cash winnings within the EU market is estimated at around 7 million.

The business generated revenues for operators of € 9.3 billion in 2011, which is expected to rise up to 13 in 2015. All this in the absence of harmonization between the regulations between the Member States. Many EU countries have in fact introduced rules to control the sector and protect players-consumers, but each state has its own system:

a) Germany and the Netherlands have banned certain types of online gambling. Closing its market in disregard for the founding principles of the EU Treaty;

b) Finland, Portugal and Sweden have a single operator which manages online cash-winning gaming services. That mono-concession scheme that has been the subject of significant criticism in our country.

c) Italy first since 1999 and then Denmark, Estonia, France, and Spain, have introduced - who better still worse - a system of licenses to allow more operators to offer this type of services.

However, the Commission notes that due to the very nature of games with online cash winnings (on the web it is very difficult to prohibit and control), citizens may not be sufficiently protected by the regulations of their country of origin. For example, the German consumer player can decide to bet on a site established in the UK, with the peace of mind of the Authorities. However, the Commission fails to note that some Member States are taking advantage of this harmonization campaign to integrate their economy and budgets, without taking into account the pecular nature of the legal and online gaming sector.

The points present in the c.d. Action Plan, which will be supported by three official recommendations that the Commission should send to the Member States (against which infringement proceedings have been launched since 2008), can be summarized as follows:

1) protection of minors. According to the Commission's estimates, 75% of minors use the internet. The Community must therefore agree on common child protection rules. It is necessary to make parents more aware of the need to adopt tools to block access to the websites, to encourage the creation of tools and filters to prohibit access to gaming sites on the basis of the age of those who connect.

2) Prevention of recycling fraud. They are cross-border phenomena, and in these cases the member countries can not fight alone, each on their own. For this reason, the Commission has illustrated the possibility of extending the anti-money laundering directive to online gaming, not forgetting the possibility of finding a solution to block payments to illegal gaming sites;

3) Protection of sport-match fixing. In 2014, a recommendation on best practices to combat the phenomenon of match-ups should be presented. The Commission will also operate in the international forums to combat corruption in sport. Here are some of the hypothesized measures: a) deletion mechanisms must be set up to deal with matched matches; b) the prohibition of bets on youth competitions must be sanctioned; c) rules must be adopted to avoid conflicts of interest, to prevent athletes and the people around them from making online bets; d) identify rules to prevent fraud phenomena in sports.

4) Greater cooperation between States and compliance with Community legislation. This is one of the most delicate aspects. And in fact plan B is ready. If the Action Plan turns out to be insufficient, the Commission could be asked to legislate on the game.

The Action Plan, presented in the last week, is the product of the consultation on the Green Paper held last year, focused on online gaming in view of its rapid growth within the European Union and the cross-border supply. However - as highlighted in the Green Paper - a number of questions may have importance and relevance also for the land gaming services sector. On this we can not disagree with the Commission: it is necessary to start from scratch and identify common rules governing online and off-line gaming without making any distinction, because phenomena such as money laundering deriving from activities illicit and match - fixing are common to both types of game offer.

The occasion is of the important ones. If clear and simple rules are identified in year zero (2013), and the individualisms of some Member States that are still in conflict with the principle of unity of the EU Treaty are exceeded, work can only be positive and productive both for the players-consumers that for the whole chain of the game. And as well-known pioneers of the sector, we could only suggest (again) to follow the Italian example.

The article was published in the biweekly newspaper "TS".