Online Gambling Consultation

March 27, 2011

Online gambling is a fast developing business in Europe, with almost 15,000 web sites already devoted to it and total annual revenues exceeding €6 billion in 2008. It is expected to double in size by 2013. National legal frameworks vary across the EU, with different rules applying to licensing, related online services, payments, public interest objectives, and the fight against fraud – the long trail of cases before the ECJ on the topic testifies to the uncertainties surrounding some of the issues.  

The EU Commission, in order to ensure legal certainty and effective protection of EU citizens in this fast-growing cross-border service activity, considers that it is important to evaluate how possibly differing models can co-exist within the EU and has published a Green Paper consultation. Its primary is declared to be obtaining a facts-based picture of the existing situation in the EU online gambling market and of the different national regulatory models.  

The Commission seeks the views of stakeholders and wishes to collect detailed information and data on key policy issues such as organisation of online gambling services and enforcement of applicable laws; consumer protection and other relevant public policy challenges as well as commercial communications and payment services.

Contributions to the consultation, which can be submitted until 31 July 2011, will determine the need for and form of any EU follow-up action in this field. Expert workshops on specific themes will be organised to complement the consultation.  

Internal Market and Services Commissioner Michel Barnier said: ‘With this Green Paper, we have launched an ambitious consultation with no pre-determined views on its possible follow-up. The online gambling market in the EU continues to grow rapidly and generates important revenues that are sometimes channelled into good causes. Its expansion must go hand-in-hand with a determination to protect our citizens, especially minors, and to ensure that offers of these types of services within the EU are sound and well-regulated. It responds to calls from the European Parliament and the Member States for us to address these questions jointly. This consultation is not about liberalisation of the market, it is about ensuring that the market for online gambling services within the EU is well-regulated for all.’ 

The key policy issues of the consultation are:

1. Definition and organisation of online gambling services: the Green Paper is consulting on the main advantages and/or difficulties associated with the co-existence in the EU of different national systems and practices for the licensing of online gambling services.

2. Related services performed and/or used by online gambling services providers: the Green Paper is consulting on rules and practices relating to online commercial communication, customer identification and regulations for payment systems for online gambling services and player accounts.

3. Public interest objectives: This section of the consultation focuses on three objectives which to various degrees may be valid for Member States in terms of their national online gambling policies:

  • consumer protection, including addiction and the measures pursued to protect players and prevent or limit such problems, the protection of minors and other vulnerable groups;
  • public order: the Green Paper is consulting on best practices to detect and prevent fraud, money laundering and other crimes;
  • financing of benevolent and public interest activities and events.

4. Enforcement: There is a considerable illegal market for online gambling services in the EU. It is estimated that for each licensed online gambling website worldwide, there are more than five web sites offering online poker or sports betting without having a licence. An illegal cross-border market is currently accessible to consumers, due either to de facto tolerance or because of a lack of effective enforcement.


Responses to the Green Paper are welcome until 31 July 2011. More information is available here.