The European Gaming and Betting Association (EGBA) told European lawmakers that an updated and improved version of the European Commission’s consumer protection guidelines is needed for online gamblers. EGBA spokespeople, including Dr. Margaret Carran, discussed the issue at the European Parliament this past Tuesday.
Only four years ago, Commission Recommendation 2014/478/EU went into effect. It was an attempt at comprehensive consumer protection measures to police licensed online gambling in the European Union.
The goal was to set a high bar of minimum consumer protections across the EU’s 27 member states.
The voluntary nature of the recommendation was a huge part of the problem. Varying national interests led to less-than-universal implementation of the policy, though. Too many countries have either protected domestic operators or refused to adopt the policies in their full measure.
Margaret Carran Testimony
Dr. Margaret Carran of the City Law School of City, University of London spoke before the European Parliament. In her 10-minute speech, Dr. Carran said, “Many countries are offering a high level of consumer protection. Many member countries have lots of regulations, but they are significantly divergent. Even when broad principles appear similar, in details they are completely different.”
“Consumers will experience a broad range of protection….Operators have to comply with a myriad of regulations that are completely different from one place to another, even though some of the changes do not have any justification in substance.”
She added in her presentation that online players’ protection continues to vary within the EU depending on the jurisdiction. Also, cooperation agreements are functional but their voluntary nature hinders real effectiveness.
Gambling Account Standards
The British professor focused on issues like gambling accounts, verification methods, and the availability of temporary accounts. Twenty-five countries require a person to open a gambling account in order to play. Two others have a voluntary gambling account.
Twenty-two member states require verification of a gambling account, though the standards of verification vary wildly. Five states do not require verification, but these are triggered by AML legislation.
Uneven Verification Methods
Only 4 member countries established nationwide standardized systems dedication to the verification of online players. In 12 countries, operators have to rely on a variety of national databases.
Six countries insist on the manual identification of players. They do not allow electronic identification at all.
Temporary Account Availability
Seventeen jurisdictions permit temporary accounts, which range from 72 hours to 30 days in length. These temporary accounts “vary dramatically” and are subject to duration or financial limitations. In some cases, limitations on finances and duration are both imposed.
In seven countries, temporary accounts are not allowed. Three other member states do not regulate temporary accounts at all, so no standards apply nationwide.
Age Limits for Gambling
Age limits are universal, but the minimum age varies. Twenty-two countries set the standard at 18 years of age. Five jurisdictions have ranges from 16 to 21 years of age.
Warnings about age limits on gambling advertisements are required only in 12 countries. This includes a warning on the advertising in print and in the advert if it is broadcast. A full 15 countries have no such warning.
Self-Exclusion Registry Standards
Twenty-four jurisdictions require self-exclusion schemes. In the other three jurisdictions, operators offer a voluntary self-exclusion program on their websites, but it is not mandatory for them to do so. Only fourteen countries have a national self-exclusion registry, which means ten countries have ineffective self-exclusion schemes.
Third parties can trigger exclusion for problem gamblers in 12 countries. That sometimes is the operator, but in other cases includes family members. In two countries, regulators can trigger exclusion. Durations varied from 7 days to 3 years to permanent self-exclusion. Permanent self-exclusion can be revoked in all countries.
Dr. Carran called for universal self-exclusion registry laws in the EU, because self-bans protect players when they cannot protect themselves (but wish to). The idea behind a self-exclusion registry is to give players a chance to ban themselves for months, years, or a lifetime if they know they are a problem gambler but also know they cannot control their compulsions at various times.
Margaret Carran’s study was funded by EGBA, which recommends a 2.0 version of the EU standards which requires more standardization. Whether that is feasible is another matter entirely. The 2014 set of EGBA standards gained support because they were voluntary, so it is uncertain whether a compulsory set of standards would gain the same level of support. Given the fact a half-dozen to a dozen countries did not comply under the original system, that is in doubt.