Cooperation Arrangement between the gambling regulatory authorities of the EEA Member States concerning online gambling services – Germany should take the chance

By Tobias Klemm – Associate Hambach & Hambach law firm

In order to improve the cross-border cooperation between their gambling regulatory authorities, 21 EEA Member States entered into an EU-backed cooperation arrangement during a meeting in Brussels on 27 November 2015. Due to information about potential terrorist attacks and a security lockdown in Brussels, all other Member States stayed away from the meeting. However, they announced that they will enter into the arrangement at the earliest possible date.

The arrangement was received positively by online gambling companies, because it is aimed at simplifying their work across several countries and might lead to lower regulatory costs. The key element in the process to achieve this is to establish a framework, in which the authorities share information. Under the arrangement, one authority can issue a request for cooperation with another authority and legally share the information needed on the relevant gambling operator. This includes information such as market data, new games, results of studies and surveys, and international issues. Furthermore, the cooperation covers the organization of gambling, its supervision, enforcement and compliance with applicable laws and regulations within respective jurisdictions, including the protection of consumers and players, the prevention of money laundering and fraud, and the integrity of bets.

The arrangement can be placed in the context of the initiatives of the European Union in the field of online gambling. Its underlying idea goes back to the Belgian presidency and the European Council’s ‘Conclusions on the framework for gambling and betting in the EU Member States.’ Since then a lot has happened, with its Green Paper ‘Online-Gambling’ the European Commission initiated a consultation process, which may give rise to legislative developments. In this connection, the Commission made concrete political and legal proposals in its Communication ‘Towards a comprehensive European framework for online gambling,’ and set up an ‘Expert Group on Gambling Services.’

However, most of the Expert Group’s efforts received too little support, because some Member States, including Germany, view it only as a platform for the exchange of information and experiences, and not as a political entity. The Member State are not very willing to grant the competence on this subject to the European Union does not have.

Unfortunately, it is therefore possible that this arrangement will share the same destiny. Firstly, it is called ‘arrangement’ and not ‘agreement,’ which implicates its voluntariness. Secondly, the arrangement explicitly states that it is ‘non-binding.’

However, with its intention e.g. ‘to identify and share best practices in relation to for example player protection, technological tools for effective regulation and responsible gambling measures,’ the arrangement could be a first step towards a comprehensive cross-border framework for online gambling in Europe and even encourage Germany to modernize its regulation of the gaming sector. One should never abandon hope.

Source: TIME Law News 1/2016 (www.timelaw.de) Hambach & Hambach Law Firm

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