- Common regulations would protect consumers
- New regulatory regime needed because gambling is no longer confined within individual countries
- Only 14 member states offer self-exclusion for problem gamblers
- Only 13 have warnings about underage gambling
- EGBA says artificial intelligence could be used to spot problem gamblers
Maarten Haijer, secretary general of the European Gaming & Betting Association (EGBA), has called on the EU to harmonize gambling regulations across all member states. He also proposed more regulation, in order to manage cross-border online platforms more effectively.
Inconsistent policies cited
Haijer set out his proposals in an article for the political news outlet, politico.eu. He said EU policy-makers need a cross-border regulatory framework that would cover consumer protection, safeguards, and standards on online gambling platforms. Some 12m online gamblers in the EU were experiencing poor service because of inconsistent national policies.
He said: “The challenges are obvious. The internet has no national borders, which means Europeans can easily play on gambling websites based in countries other than where they live. But the quality of national gambling regulations in the EU varies significantly and there is no consistency between them.”
According to research by City University London carried out in 2018, only Denmark fully implemented the guidelines on gambling drawn up by the European Commission. The guidelines were drawn up in 2014 and were due for review in 2017. However, the review did not happen.
Haijer said it was a major concern that only 14 EU countries provided measures for gamblers to self-exclude. He noted that self-exclusion registers are national-only, enabling problem gamblers to play on a platform based in another country.
He added that the EU also has only 13 member countries that “require a ‘no underage gambling’ sign on gambling advertising — a simple and common-sense measure.”
A further problem, he said, is that “only half of member countries allow the use of electronic identification or public databases to verify the identity of players, increasing the risk of fraud and minors finding ways to gamble online.”
More regulation needed
Haijer said: “These are major failings in the effort to keep Europe’s citizens and gamblers safe online — and they could easily be avoided. Even some basic safeguards are not available everywhere in the EU. That is why the EGBA calls for more common EU rules and safeguards to better protect Europe’s more than 12 million online gamblers.
“A common rulebook would establish the strong and consistent safeguards needed to protect Europe’s citizens, particularly vulnerable groups, such as minors and problem gamblers.”
The secretary general of EGBA also pointed out that the European Court of Justice had stopped enforcing EU laws on gambling regulations in 2017. The ECJ had ruled that it was instead the responsibility of national governments to determine standards and policies.
He added: “It is 2019: If the EU is really serious about making the digital single market work for its consumers, there is no reason why online gamblers living in one member country should be less protected than those living in another. It is time to act.”
What does EGBA propose?
EGBA published its Manifesto – an EU Framework for Online Gambling 2.0 in December 2018. This document has been put to the European Commission for its consideration. In February, Haijer also spoke out on the use of artificial intelligence (AI) as a tool to help protect gamblers in the EU.
AI is currently a focus of the European Commission for determining policies for research and investment in the future.
Haijer believes AI could be deployed in the gambling industry to assist with ID verification, protecting players, and preventing fraud. Data scientists could also use it to build better predictive behavior models to help spot problem gamblers earlier.
Data is already collected “for compliance and legal reasons,” Haijer noted, but could “identify potential problem gambling behavior before it arises – and enable protective and timely intervention to the customer.”
He said: “With increasing responsibilities to ensure better protection for our customers, AI could be a game-changer in customer identification, more robust consumer protection safeguards, and, in general, a better and more secure product.
“That’s why we believe a European policy for AI should be a priority for the next commission and parliament. Such a policy should take into account the benefits of AI for consumers, and ensure AI tools are developed in a safe and sensible way.”