25 MAR 2011
By Martin Banks | The Parlaiment
UK Tory MEP Malcolm Harbour has given a cautious welcome to the European commission's newly published green paper on online gambling.
Harbour, chairman of parliament's consumer protection committee, described the draft legislation as a "good start" for the development of "safe and responsible" betting.
But industry representatives were less enthusiastic, giving a mixed response to the document which sets out a framework for online gambling in member states.
Harbour, chairman of parliament's influential internal market and consumer protection committee, said, "Online gambling is a cross-border issue and it needs a clear EU framework in order to fulfil its potential.
"At the moment there is a patchwork of licensing regimes or state monopolies across the EU and a lack of clear legislation is leaving important decisions to be made by the courts," said the ECR member.
He added, "Online gambling is one area where some EU legislation can be justified. If we do not set out a clear framework at EU level for legitimate and regulated online gaming we are only going to see further growth of unlicensed or black-market operators.
"Through the 'CEN initiative' the industry has shown that it is already working to improve standards and to provide consumer safeguards. This is very welcome and must be taken into account in any EU action.
"We should create a viable online gambling industry in the EU that is regulated well and regulated as consistently as possible across the single market."
Elsewhere, the European sports security association (ESSA) said the green paper was a "solid step" towards building a single market in online gaming in Europe.
But the association still questioned the commission's assertion that sports events where betting takes place may, due to criminal activities, be subject to a higher risk of match fixing.
An ESSA spokesman said, "Match fixing is an unfortunate and unwanted problem in sport but there is no evidence that offering odds on a match places it at higher risk of match fixing.
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