European Gambling Briefing

The 3rd annual European Gambling Briefing (EGB) took place last week in Brussels, Belgium. EGB is the longest running and most established conference tackling legal and regulatory issues in the gambling industry. Over 150 attendees, from 23 European countries, joined the impressive list of speakers.

The opening keynote address by Jean Bergevin, Head of DG/MKT at the European Commission, asked whether the future of gambling in the EU is to be liberalisation or market closure. He acknowledged „the way forward depends on constructive consensus which is currently not present.“ A statement that did not surprise EGB delegates. However, those in favour of EU licences may well have been alarmed when Louise Harvey, a Partner at Brussels based lobby firm Blueprint Partners, stated it could be 20 years before EU harmonisation of gambling legislation. Louise was presenting in the Perfecting the Art of Lobbying session which spoke of the good and bad practices and techniques one should use in communicating with EU institutions. Fiona Russell, International Legal Counsel of UK operator Betfair, contributed the operator’s perspective of approaching the lobbying process. She gave advice about „getting the most out of people who can help you“, such as lobbyists, lawyers, associations and suppliers, but expressed concern that this should not create cartels. Fiona concluded that in Betfair’s eyes, it has to be appreciated this is going to be a long game, but one well worth playing.

EGB not only looked at gambling markets in Western Europe and Central Europe, but attendees had the opportunity to hear from speakers from emerging markets such as Russia, the Baltics, Macau and South Africa. Andri Avila from Baltic operator Olympic Entertainment Group gave an overview of business opportunities in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. Each market showed increased gambling revenue over recent years, however, he did stress each brings different regulatory issues and barriers to entry with Lithuania having the highest entry barriers of all the Baltic States.

In a unique session that took place on day two, attendees enjoyed the opportunity to attend interactive roundtable discussions. The roundtables had six expert speakers, each with the remit to explore and analyse a particular jurisdiction or issue. They included Albert Agustinoy Guilayn of Cuatrecasas leading the Spain roundtable, Wulf Hambach of Hambach & Hambach for Germany and Stefano Sbordoni of Studio Legale Sbordoni heading a roundtable discussing the implications of the recent Placanica ruling.

The conference finished with a look at the role of the associations in representing the industry. This was one of the first opportunities for the industry to hear from the newly appointed Secretary General of the European Gaming and Betting Association, Sigrid Ligné. Other panel members included representatives from European Casino Association, EUROMAT and European Lotteries.